Becoming Jane Now Open at Natural History Museum LA
Prior to the pandemic I was a bit of a regular at Natural History Museum LA and visited it multiple times a year. It was like a second home and I enjoyed wandering the halls checking out what was new and visiting my favorite exhibits. Then Covid hit and, like every other place, the museum shut its doors. Never did I think it would be 2 yeas before I returned, but, happily, I recently found myself back at the museum to check out Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of Jane Goodall. Growing up with PBS ensured that I was familiar with her and her work with chimpanzees, but, honestly, that’s where it started and ended. She was (and remains) a famous figure but I preferred sharks to chimps and never learned much more than that. Over the years my knowledge has grown but I would hardly call myself an expert so I was happy to visit the exhibit and learn all about her life’s work.
Becoming Jane, produced in partnership with the National Geographic Society and the Jane Goodall institute, is making its west coast debut at Natural History Museum LA and tells Dr. Goodall’s life story through personal artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Born in 1934, Dr. Goodall’s passion for animals started at an early age. As a toddler she put earthworms in her bed to see how they moved and, at age 5, she hid in the hen house to see how eggs were made. By the age of 10 she had decided she wanted to go to Africa and study chimpanzees thanks to her favorite childhood toy, a stuffed chimp named Jubilee.
Jane didn’t grow up wealthy but her parents always supported and encouraged her. Her mom told her that if she worked hard, took advantage of opportunities and never gave up she would achieve her dream. At the age of 23 she made it to Africa and, as they say, the rest is history.
Well…not really. What happened then was a lot of hard work. A doctorate at Cambridge. Years of research at Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Endless advocacy on behalf of chimpanzees and the environment. Let’s just say that now, at age 87, Dr. Goodall is working just as hard (if not harder) than she has in the past decades.
All this and more is highlighted in Becoming Jane and the exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into her extraordinary life. From her childhood to her studies and research to her advocacy, it’s all represented in detailed (and often interactive) exhibits.
I spent a great deal of time viewing the artifacts and was especially awed by the chimpanzee tools on display. Dr. Goodall was in danger of losing her research funding when she discovered the extraordinary fact that chimps use tools to hunt for food (such as a long stick used to dig for termites). Prior to this discovery it was thought that only humans used tools. Needless to say, she didn’t lose her funding and continued to research these amazing creatures.
The life of Dr. Goodall is nothing short of fascinating and Becoming Jane allows us a glimpse into her history, her research and her impact on the world. With several interactive features it’s fun for both children and adults and is guaranteed to give one a true appreciation for chimpanzees. It runs until April 17, 2022 so there’s no excuse to miss it.