Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a fantastic museum. Before I delve into what was there, let me tell you a bit about my background. I love anatomy and physiology. When I was a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. As a college student, I had a cadaver lab and numerous classes on both subjects. Innards get my blood pumping so to speak.
To make a long story short, we were headed to Oklahoma City, OK, for the weekend (Boomer Sooner!) and stopped off at the Museum of Osteology. The museum bills itself as the only one of its kind in the United States. For those of you with no medical background, osteology is the scientific study of bones and this museum is chock full of them. When you walk in the lobby, you are greeted by whale skulls that reach almost to the ceiling. There is also a diorama of a lion and eland, in skeletal form, fighting it out. In the corner, there is a small terrarium full of beetles that are <ahem> cleaning the skulls. When we were there there was a beaver and coyote skull inside.
Once inside there are over 300 skeletons, which have been lovingly collected and cleaned, on display. The biggest skeleton, the humpback whale hanging from the ceiling, is 40 ft. long and weighs almost 2,500 lbs. The oldest skeleton at the museum is a Javan rhino that was harvested in China in 1880 and rediscovered in a shop in Paris, France. The weirdest skeletons though have to be the two headed calves. Among other things, I learned that birds have a ring of bone around their eyes called a sclerotic ossicle, that some parrots skulls are colored red, and that elephants have no knee caps on their front legs. The collection also includes numerous birds, mammals, and reptiles as well as some human skeletons and skulls, including one with a bullet hole. It is a fascinating lesson in comparative anatomy with the wide variety of creatures on display. If the skeletons themselves weren’t interesting enough, there is an information scavenger hunt for the kids as well as Explorer’s Corner upstairs with mystery animals. One of the best parts of the museum though is that it is very kid friendly: they can touch all of the displays. Our favorite parts of the museum were: armadillo, platypus, owls, giraffe, two headed calf, and the open space for the 16 month old to run in.
The other side of the museum, and the part of the business that provides the funding, is Skulls Unlimited. They are the world’s leading supplier of ethically and legally obtained skeletal specimens that are then sold to museums, educational facilities, or even collectors. This was the original reason we were heading here: my husband was dropping off a pronghorn skull to be cleaned. Skulls Unlimited is in the stinky business of taking bones, cleaning them and preserve them. It is such a stinky and gross job that they were featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Let me tell you, if you are dropping off a specimen to be cleaned, be prepared to shower afterwards. Thankfully the museum is in a completely separate building and you don’t smell a thing.
If you find yourself visiting the Sooner State, the museum is located at 10301 S. Sunnylane Rd., Oklahoma City, OK 73160. Admission is only $5 and well worth it.