If you’re in the Kansas City area and have a few hours to kill this weekend, then the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kansas, is calling your name. This is the last weekend you’ll be able to view their fabulous American Museum of Natural History exhibit, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids.
Learning about different cultures throughout the world has never been more interesting than when touring this exhibit, where you’ll encounter such strange and exotic creatures as bunyips, rocs, cyclopes, and phoenixes. The huge, vividly-hued sculptures (e.g., of Pegasus) make every room a dazzling display of imagination.
It’s especially captivating to see how some of the myths of these magical creatures got started. Huge mammoth skulls made people think they belonged to cyclopes, because of the huge holes for the trunks. Narwhal tusks were purported to be unicorn horns. Manatees were thought to be mermaids.
What’s really amazing is that so many different kinds of people (from opposite parts of the world and different times in history) came up with the same exact types of creatures without knowing about the other civilizations dreaming up the exact same mythical beings. Even the writers of the Old Testament mentioned the re’em, a Hebrew term for unicorn. St. George was a legendary dragon slayer and became a popular symbol of Christian faith.
Sometimes details were passed along from culture to culture–for example, mermaids from around the world carry a comb and mirror, a tradition passed from European to African and Caribbean cultures.
Although there are a few hands-on components to the exhibit, most preschoolers would not enjoy it that much, as it’s so reading-intensive.
One caveat: be sure to give yourself at least a couple of hours to get through the whole exhibit. I got to the museum later in the day, and then was so fascinated by each object that I spent time reading just about every placard in the place, which meant that the museum closed before I’d even gotten to the last room (which featured dragons) or watched more than one of the special videos, created exclusively for this exhibit. I wish very much that I’d had more time so that I could have seen it all.
Coming up at the Museum at Prairiefire next month is the Goodnight Museum Sleepover, which takes place from Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 6 p.m. to Monday, February 16, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. Bring your sleeping bag and spend a magical evening exploring the museum. You can camp out under the giant T. rex and circling pterosaurs, or next to 85-million-year-old Kansas fossils. Engage in hands-on activities and flashlight scavenger hunts, enjoy a delicious snack, and then relax with a bedtime story before you snuggle in for the night. Goodnight Museum overnights are for children ages 6 to 13 and their chaperones.
Also beginning in February, the Museum will be showcasing a new Sprint Gallery Exhibition in the Great Hall: The Wild Horses of Sable Island. In this exhibit, photographer Roberto Dutesco reveals the beauty of Sable Island–an isolated sliver of land one hundred miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, which is home to a feral herd of more than 400 wild horses.
If photos of wild horses couldn’t drag you into the museum, then perhaps you’d be persuaded by the promise of some up-close-and-personal encounters with wild animals from the Kansas City Zoo. During scheduled days in February and March (Feb. 7, Feb. 14, Feb. 21, and March 7), the Kansas City Zoomobile will be onsite, bringing live critters to the museum’s doorstep.
Check out their website for more details about all these exciting upcoming events. And don’t miss your last chance to see Mythic Creatures this weekend.