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We were at the AMNH again this weekend -- family in from out of town.…

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We were at the AMNH again this weekend -- family in from out of town. The 4th floor, which everyone calls the dinosaur floor but also covers anything in the prehistoric fossil record including the evolution of mammals and other non-dinosaur stuff, but sure, dinosaurs, has a volunteer group of people, who seem like mostly retired people, who serve as docents. They wear these sort of dorky field vests and hats, to look like people who are digging up fossils, and buttons that say something like "Ask me about fossils!" But very clearly, their job is to provide information to visitors about the exhibits.

As we were looking at the apatosaurus, which is one of the most famous ones -- it's one of the earliest ever mounts of a dinosaur of that type (the Anne Elk type of brontosaurus, the ones that "are thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end", which I think is literally the only Monty Python sketch I have time for) and it's been at the museum for FORever, someone asked me where it was dug up, and I thought it might be Montana but I wasn't sure, so I turned to the closest volunteer and asked. This guy. THIS GUY. He was awesome. He was like if a slightly older Harvey Fierstein was going to be a fossil volunteer. First, he told me he was going to sit down, so he sat down on a bench. Then, as to the question of where it was from, he kind of rolled his eyes and said "Out in the WEST somewhere" in a classic "New Yorker's View of the World" way. So I said "so like maybe Montana?" and he sighed, and said "yeah, sure, like that AREA. In the WEST." (It is from Wyoming, if anyone is hoping for facts here.) Then I asked if he could tell us anything else interesting about it, and he said "Well. As you can SEE, it's very BIG." To his credit, he then pointed out that if our heads were in the same proportion to our overall bodies as the apatosaurus's head is to its body, our heads would be the size of golf balls, which I thought was an excellent image to drive that point. I think I'm making this exchange sound like it wasn't very good, but I really found it to be sort of a joy. This is exactly what should happen when you ask a New Yorker about things in the Natural History museum.

And for another museum update, I went to the Museum of Mathematics for the first time, and it was really A+. I was a little, hmmm, the web site seems to be trying hard to present it as a museum for people of all ages, and FOR SURE there was stuff going on, in terms of the math, where it was really a challenge for me, personally, to try to keep up with it, and a lot of the activities were things that a kid could do and have fun messing around with, OR an adult could do that same activity and really take it to the next level of focus and concentration ... so content-wise, a solid portion of the stuff covers all ages. BUT, the environment in general is pretty geared for kids. It's very run-around-and-make-a-lot-of-noise friendly, in a lot of ways it looks more like a play space than a "real" museum. All this is by way of saying I'd give it a high recommendation (and plus, it wasn't crowded at all on a weekend, which is something that is said NEVER about a Manhattan attraction, and it's reasonably priced) with the understanding that it's more of a kids-first experience.
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    • I know it's only from reinforcement, but I especially love it when something like that MATCHES the accent so perfectly.
  • I love your jaded Museum docent. "Out west! Here there be dragons!"
  • I don't know how I missed this math museum when we were there with the offspring.
  • That docent!

    Do you recommend the math museum highly enough that it might bump a "classic" NYC tourist attraction off your list? When we visit this summer, it will be our first time (the kids' first time, obvi) in the city, and we have two days. Kids are 9 and 7 and are math nerds.
    • http://momath.org/about/exhibit-guide/

      I would say it's a good option if you want to fill in a time with no lines and no crowds. It's nice because you can sit down at a lot of the stations. MAN, that is what I have become ... you can SIT DOWN at a lot of the activities. But, when you are doing a lot of standing on line and walking through stuff, it does feel different to go somewhere that involves sitting. It's not huge, it's two floors, I think it would really be worth it if the boys were willing to sit down and focus on the some of the stuff, which it sounds like they would like.

      If you are with someone, like let's say MY FATHER, who wants to walk in, look at each thing for 2 minutes, and then leave, you would walk out saying "why did we really come here in the first place?" But, if you are chill with a kid spending a CHUNK of time designing a prism, then it's a really solid destination.

      It's in the Flatiron district, so not especially near anything else, unfortunately.

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