Not Your Father's Museum

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While waiting for new exhibits at my favorite museums in Oklahoma — I would say patiently waiting, but the truth is I am notoriously impatient when anticipating new exhibits at Oklahoma's under-appreciated but spectacular museums – I thought it a good occasion to introduce readers to one of the truly under-publicized museums in the state. And it isn't under-appreciated because it isn't fascinating. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Oklahoma City is home to the Museum of Osteology, is America's only skeleton museum.

Yes, skeleton museum. This unique educational experience focuses on the form and function of the skeletal system. This 7,000 square ft. museum displays hundreds of skulls and skeletons from all corners of the world. Exhibits include adaptation, locomotion, classification and diversity of the vertebrate kingdom. The Museum of Osteology is the only one of its kind in America – and here it is, right in the Sooner State.

The museum's mission is "to provide quality educational opportunities to area schools, groups, and the general public. The exploration of the form and function of the skeletal system opens the door to understanding. It is the belief of this museum that understanding and education leads to appreciation of the natural world and, ultimately, to its conservation."

According to the museum, from comparative anatomy to classification to adaptation and locomotion, The Museum of Osteology has been designed with learning in mind. Currently displaying nearly 300 skeletons from all corners of the world, visitors have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast many rare species normally not seen in museum exhibits.

My perspective on the value of this museum is academic. It presents an opportunity that many students and academics might not normally have – the chance to compare and contrast skeletal structures in a tangible, 3D environment. This is not often possible for students and other interested parties. Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of organisms. Compare the specimens on display in this exhibit and you may notice that they all have the same basic design including a skull, four limbs, a spinal column, a torso, and a pelvis.

But it isn't just human skeletons on display here for academic study. Currently displaying nearly 300 skeletons from all corners of the world, visitors have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast many rare species normally not seen in museum exhibits. In addition, the museum features a variety of North American specimens ranging from tiny mice and shrew skeletons to a 40-foot humpback whale.

This added element makes the museum a treasure trove for interested individuals, particularly children, who would enjoy the comparison between skeletal structures in different species. Many young people will never have the same fascination with science as they will when they are young students. This museum gives parents the chance to indulge their children's interests, and, hopefully, inspire ongoing interest, after the point where science seems to historically lure children. For those with children curious about history, anthropology, biology and zoology (and what child isn't interested in zoology, even if they don't know the word), the Museum of Osteology is an absolute must. It will benefit children and enrich the lives of the entire family.

Inspiring children's academic interests, energizing interest in science, are fundamentally good things, and it is a delight that Oklahoma is home to this terrific asset for families.

-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. For comments or suggestions, reach him at [email protected].

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