by Sally Deering
Three years ago in the frozen tundra of Siberia, a reindeer herder discovered the Holy Grail of prehistoric artifacts, a real, completely preserved baby mammoth christened Baby Lyuba. Since the discovery, Baby Lyuba’s star has risen faster than Lady Gaga’s – a full-color feature in National Geographic magazine, TV appearances and a national tour that brought her first to the Field Museum in Chicago and then to the Liberty Science Center (LSC) in Jersey City, where she takes center stage in their main exhibit, “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.”
Designed by curators at The Field Museum in Chicago, “Mammoths and Mastodons” features fossils, touchable casts, facts about climate change and the earth’s ever-changing ecosystems. It’s all on view through January 9th, but if you want to see Baby Lyuba, she’s only on display through November 10th and then the million-dollar baby mammoth heads back to her Russian home.
“On November 11th, she will be replaced by a replica, but there’s nothing like seeing the real thing,” Mary Maluso, Associate Director of Communications at the Liberty Science Center says. “She’s encased in glass, but you can get inches from her and see every detail, the tufts of hair, eyelashes. Preserving Baby Lyuba is of the utmost importance. Every inch of her body has been catalogued and photographed.”
What’s not to love about a 42,000 year-old baby mammoth?
After Baby Lyuba’s discovery in 2007, scientists examined her and concluded she was one-month old when she choked on sediment that buried her alive and the very sediment that killed her was actually a natural preserving agent that kept her intact for 42,000 years.
“The tragedy of a baby animal dying young turned into a scientific miracle,” Maluso says. “They did autopsies to see the contents of her stomach – mother’s milk – and extracted DNA. This information solidifies theories that scientists have had. It was a difficult time period to study, older information was not complete and this gave them a holistic look into her life.”
At “Mammoths and Mastodons,” museum visitors will learn about the proboscidean family — its ancestors in Africa that roamed the earth more than 50 million years ago right up to the small dwarf mammoths that survived until around 2,000 years ago. Stepping back in time, visitors can walk through ancient landscapes and learn how to hunt powerful animals, see real Ice Age artworks, teeth and fur. They can explore how scientists use bones, DNA, and microscopic pollen to learn how mammoths and mastodons lived, where they lived, and why they died. This outstanding exhibition helps guests of all ages and backgrounds understand complex issues of today’s conservation -biology. And it’s right here in Jersey City.
This is the Liberty Science Center’s fourth partnership with The Field Museum. Another Field Museum exhibit, “A T-Rex Named Sue,” was also a huge success at LSC.
“They produce high-quality experiences,” Maluso says. “It’s nice to host exhibitions from all around the country and all around the world to our guests here in Jersey City.”
How about a science exhibit on cooking?
President and CEO Emlyn Koster works closely with Vice President of Exhibitions and Featured Experiences Wayne LaBar to design the Liberty Science Center’s permanent exhibits and those that travel to other organizations. Working internally with exhibition and graphics designers, and the Learning and Teaching department, the Liberty Science Center reaches and teaches people of all ages because it presents scientific concepts in a new and different way, combining creativity and humor with research and fact to make learning interesting and fun.
“We’re working now on an exhibition on cooking,” Maluso says.
That’s not all.
ho wouldn’t want to take a Halloween Terror Tour?
Halloween’s just around the corner and on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30, from 6 pm-11 pm, the Liberty Science Center’s Annual “Spooktacular!” promises to be a fun way to celebrate. Families are encouraged to dress in costume and monsters and ghouls will greet visitors on the “Terror Tour” (younger Trick-or-Treaters might way to skip this part,) then on to the Wildlife Challenge to see spiders and participate in a costume contest. Films like “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” will be shown and it wouldn’t be Halloween without some fun science experiments!
Celebrating a non-denominational holiday? Try the “12 Days of Science”
The LSC staff is as busy as a gaggle of elves preparing for their annual “12 Days of Science” non-denominational holiday celebration with a different program presented each day that runs Dec 22 through Jan 2. Broadway comes to LSC when “Bubblemania” a fun show about the science of bubbles blows across the Hudson to perform for visitors. Live animals are also on the bill, snakes, tarantulas, iguanas and other crawly-things from LSC’s permanent exhibit and a real live penguin and other animals from outside habitats will be shown during this 12-day extravaganza.
Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen will also be a big draw during the “12 Days of Science.” Kids and adults can choose unusual flavors (like broccoli) to make their own ice cream. The Liberty Science Center offers exciting, educational and fun-for-the-whole-family exhibits that will make you think outside the box. A great adventure for kids and their families, LCS expands our knowledge of science in ways that are fun.
“I don’t think people realize how science touches your everyday life and how much fun it can be to learn about these things you don’t know about,” Maluso says. “We don’t have galleries broken up in categories like biology, chemistry, but galleries that are important to you in life. We have a Communications exhibit that explores what it means when you scowl, blogging and the digital pathways. It’s an interesting way to present the content as opposed to the way science subjects might be presented in school.”
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Boulevard
For more info, go to www.lsc.org