Posted by: georginaferry | April 13, 2010

Eggstraordinary

For the past two weeks the Museum has been buzzing with school holiday crowds. It’s interesting to feel how the atmosphere changes when children come with their families rather than in a school party. You can see parents who brought their kids mainly to keep them occupied and burn off some energy gradually becoming absorbed in the exhibits. And excited children are constantly urging their parents to ‘Look at this!’, or asking questions.

Though parents don’t always have the answers. ‘What is a trilobite?’, wondered a puzzled dad at the touchables table. ‘Is it a skeleton, or a fish?’ I hope he made it to the geology displays, where he would have discovered much more than he probably wanted to know about trilobites.

The Museum gives out free trails to give some focus for their young visitors, and for this holiday, inevitably, they offer an ‘Eggstraordinary Easter Egg Hunt’. There are birds’ eggs to find, naturally, but also crocodile eggs, the egg-laying platypus and a petrified birds’ nest. Most eggstraordinary of all are the dinosaur eggs, some on the touchables table and, in a glass case nearby, one of the largest collections of dinosaur eggs in any museum.

Dinosaur eggs from Henan Province, China

This collection of eggs from Henan Province in China is on loan to the museum from Mr K.H. Laurie. There are several clutches, identified as being from different species by their size and other characteristics. Like all dinosaur fossils, they are more than 65 million years old. How they came to be overtaken by the geological processes that have preserved so many dinosaur remains in Chinese strata we shall never know. Unhatched, they are a poignant symbol of unrealised potential, preserved for ever in a state of anticipation.

For those whom quiet contemplation of such mysteries is not enough, £1 buys you action from an animatronic dinosaur nestling in the machine behind you. Encouragingly, the families I saw today seemed much more absorbed in the real exhibits.

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