Creatures of Light Exhibit at the Museum of Natural History

Creatures of Light Sign

You know what’s cool? Animals and insects that light up on their own. The ability to do that is called Bioluminescence, which is a good word to know. If you have ever seen a group of iridescent green fireflies blinking and flitting about on a dark summer evening, or a rainbow jellyfish glowing like carnival sideshow in a public aquarium, you know that it is a fairly delightful thing to observe. Bioluminescence!

Right now, the Museum of Natural History is hosting a special exhibit called Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence, which has been on my “To Do” list since I first read about it a few weeks ago. This weekend, my brother was in town visiting from Arizona, and since his a big Science geek, I dragged him along with me to the museum to check out the rooms full of glowing animals. Or so I thought.

Located on the fourth floor of the museum, Creatures of Light is set up in a connected series of dark galleries that wind around through the different little exhibit stations where the various animals that bioluminesce are featured. The thing is, with exception of one tiny collection of Flashlight fish, that glowed bright green as they swam in a pitch black tank, all of the other animals and insects in the exhibit are models, not real animals. This is bogus. How difficult would it have been for the American Museum of Natural History to pull a few strings and get a tank or two of real glowing jellyfish for the exhibit? My guess: Not terribly difficult. Jellyfish are not an endangered species or anything. I do not know why they saw the need to phone this in, but I call shenanigans!

Also, out of necessity there is a lot reading to do. A lot of reading. Every two feet there is something else to read so you can understand what you are looking at, and what chemicals make it light up and blah blah blah. Reading! When I go to the museum, I want to look at cool things but I don’t want to stand around reading.

Creatures of Light doesn’t flat out suck or anything. It’s certainly worth going to if you’re not expecting to see any live animals. But I think I was hoping for that, so I was disappointed. Did I learn about how Fireflies attract mates, and did I see giant plastic models of somewhat glowing jellyfish hanging from the ceiling? Yes, yes I did. Was it worth the additional $12.50 you have to pay, in addition to whatever you pay to get into the museum? Meh. I am not going to whine too much about that because the museum needs the money so, it’s going to a good cause.

After we left the Creatures of Light Exhibit (by the way, your entry time is predetermined, so you have to go, I think, within 15 minutes of whatever time gets stamped on your ticket) we saw the Dinosaurs, The Hall of Ocean Life and the Hall of Gems and Minerals, all of which made my brother’s head explode. So, that was pretty cool.

Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence Runs through January 6th, 2013 at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street on NYC’s Upper West Side.

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