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By Rail to the Past

Selected Gems amnd Minerals

Selected Gems and Minerals

I should have written this post last Sunday, when Martine and I took Los Angeles’s relatively new Expo Light Rail Line to the Natural History Museum, just south of the University of Southern California. We go there, on the average, once every year or two. It was good that we went last week because the Traveling the Silk Road exhibit was still running (it goes until April 13). It was well worth spending an hour or two to see.

It was fun taking the Expo Line because parking at the museum has always been a bit of a drag. Even though we had to catch the line at its temporary terminus in Culver City, we look forward to its extension westward to the beach in Santa Monica. There will be a station just one mile south of where we live, and it will take us all the way downtown and a number of interesting stopping points in between. It will run roughly along the line of Exposition Boulevard, where once the old Pacific Red Car ran in the days when Southern California was better served by public transportation. (If you’ve ever seen the 1988 cartoon/live action feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, you know what happened to the Red Car line.)

Triceratops on the Loose!

Triceratops on the Loose!

Of the museum’s permanent exhibits are the dinosaur hall (see above) and the gems and minerals (see illustration at top). There are other exhibits of note, but it would take two days to see them all. Also noteworthy are the exhibits of stuffed North American and African mammals, and a California history exhibit, which deserves to be seen by more visitors. After tax season, I wouldn’t mind checking out the collections again.

My favorite Natural History Museum program of all time was back in 2002, when they had an exhibit and a program of lectures about the Vikings. This was just after my 2001 trip to Iceland, and I was still buzzed—plus I got a chance to meet Jesse L. Byock, Professor of Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian at UCLA, and Gisli Sigurðsson of the Árni  Magnússon Institute in Rekjavík (whose exhibit on “Vikings and the New World” I had seen at the Culture House in Rekjavík just months before). That was the high point of my relationship with the Natural History Museum: I even became a member for a year or two. Since then, I have been waiting and watching for another special event so in line with my interests.