Monday, November 8, 2010

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis Week

Following my well-received weeklong series on Chicago's Field Museum, I decided to do something similar for The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children's museum in the world. Whether or not you have kids in tow, it's a worthwhile place for any dinosaur enthusiast to visit.

Even if you'd never heard of the museum and just stumbled upon it while wandering Indianapolis, you would immediately realize this: the exterior is dominated by two playful, traffic-stopping sauropod sculptures. The first are a set of three Alamosaurs, a mother and her offspring, bursting through the museum walls. They were conceived and created by 2005 Lanzendorf prize winner Brian Cooley, who has a long history of creating surprising dinosaur sculptures, such as the luggage-defiling dromaeosaurs at Calgary International Airport.

Photo by John Ballard, via flickr.

Lest these sauropods should give the impression that the museum is a place to escape, the two brachiosaurs below show the great efforts these giants will take to get in.

Indianapolis Childrens Museum
Photo by Bob Wollpert, via flickr.

Unveiled last year with the museum's new welcome center, this Brachiosaurus pair was conceived of by the museum's CEO, Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, and sculpted by another giant in paleontology sculpture, Gary Staab. Both of these sculptures deliver a message about the museum, about the organization's excitement and dedication to engage children's curiosity and teach science and critical thinking in a completely pain-free way. The interpreters on hand are a constant presence, giving frequent demonstrations, answering questions, and ensuring that no visitor - whether child or adult - leaves thinking they've just had a stroll through what amounts to a nice set of dioramas. The dinosaur setpieces have all been designed with teaching points in mind, and these are explained clearly and enthusiastically by the staff.

All this week, I'll be featuring posts about the dinosaurian delights of the Children's Museum. Thanks to Josh Estes, the museum's Dinosphere and Treasures of the Earth Manager and Interpreter, I had the chance to get a behind-the-scenes tour that gave me a new appreciation for the way exhibits for children are built, from the birth of the concept to the last coat of paint. If you've been to the Children's Museum, I hope it does the same for you. If you haven't been there, maybe it will add it to your travel to-do list.


  1. O.O

    I NEED TO VISIT THIS MUSEUM! (Adds it to her "Dinosaur Road Trip" list.) Those sculptures would have blown my mind as a kid and anyone who doesn't love them, body and soul, is the most jaded human alive.

  2. I have also added this museum to my "must visit" list. Little Jack is already used to walking into his room and catching his (my) stuffed dinos posed in the act of stealing the socks from his dresser, so he will absolutely love this!

  3. Ian...all the more reason to go! To feel like a kid ;-) Great post! These pictures are so funny and amazing!

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  5. Wow these are amazing!! and this is just the outside!!
    A BIg Roar!! from @naughtydinosaur

    Great blog, do follow me

  6. I think I've been there, many, many years ago. These spectacular statues weren't there back then, but I do remember seeing a theropod statue. Bought a little musical triangle there, and one of those toys with some sort of colored liquid and a tiny water wheel inside. (I have no clue what its proper name is, if it has one. You could flip the toy upside down and back to make the liquid run through the water wheel and to the other side.)

  7. Wow, I want to be a kid again after reading this series! I loved the interview and peaks behind the scenes.


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