“That was then. This is now.” Opens at Natural History Museum LA

Some museums I can visit once and be satisfied and others I like to visit over and over again and discover new things each time. Natural History Museum LA is one such place. I’ve been there so many times it’s like a second home. I park in my favorite spot, stroll around the gift shop to see what’s new and pay a visit to my favorite dioramas in the mammal halls. Then it’s off to find what’s new. Last week I stopped by and checked out the newest exhibition That was then. This is now.

That was then. This is now. is a collaboration between the Natural History Museum and the Center for PostNatural History. Created by artist Richard Pell the center, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is dedicated to showcasing specimens of postnatural selection.

If you’re like me your first thought might be, “huh?” Basically, these are organisms that have been altered by humans. They haven’t naturally evolved but have been changed thanks to human intervention, for better or for worse.

Often this intervention is intentional as in the case of the budgerigar (commonly known as the parakeet). Did you know in the wild they are usually bright green? All the other colors like yellow, blue and white are the result of human involvement. Same goes with blue carnations and glow in the dark zebrafish – two items you can also find in the exhibit.

Other times the involvement is unintentional as in the case of this deformed alligator head. Several such alligators were found in Louisiana and it’s thought their deformities are the result of toxic waste that was dumped in the 1930’s.

Though relatively small the exhibit is quite fascinating. There are 3D images of some of the organisms while there are actual specimens of others. These specimens, provided by the natural history museum, are accompanied by an audio track explaining just how they’ve been postnaturally altered.

That was then. This is now. is a most enlightening exhibition. It won’t necessarily make you feel wonderful about the human race but it does offer insight into all the machinations that occur outside of the ordinary person’s day to day life. It’s a brave new world, as they say, and the more we know about it the better.

That was then. This is now. runs through Sunday, April 28, 2019 and is included with museum admission.

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