Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids Take Over Museum

This white unicorn bathed in violet light, 10 feet long from tail to tip of horn, is featured in the special exhibition. © AMNH/D. Finnin

Touch casts of a narwhal tusk, the lower jaw of Gigantopithecus (an extinct group of apes) and a life-size reproduction of the talon of a Haast’s eagle at Grand Rapids Public Museum’s latest exhibition and learn about the mythical creatures whose legends these artifacts stoked.

Opening to the public on Saturday, Nov. 11, Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids traces the natural and cultural roots of some of the world’s most enduring mythological creatures from Asia, Europe, the Americas and beyond.

For instance, discover how the elongated spiral tooth of the narwhal, a small whale that lives in arctic waters, lent credence for a time to Europeans’ centuries-old belief in the unicorn.  

The exhibit, organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, features models and replicas of preserved specimens as well as cast fossils of prehistoric animals to investigate how they could have, through misidentification, speculation, fear or imagination, inspired the development of some legendary creatures.

This 17-foot-long dragon with a wingspan of over 19 feet guards the entrance to the exhibition. ©MNH/D. Finnin
This 17-foot-long dragon with a wingspan of over 19 feet guards the entrance to the exhibition. © AMNH/D. Finnin

The exhibit offers many interactive stations where visitors can build their own virtual dragon and watch it come to life.

Dragons, Unicorns, & Mermaids will include imaginative models, paintings and textiles, along with other cultural objects from around the world. The exhibit will bring to light surprising similarities and differences in the ways people around the world have been inspired by nature to envision and depict these strange and wonderful creatures.

This exhibit is located on the museum’s third floor and runs from Nov. 11 to May 20, 2018.

This kraken, a mythical sea monster, has 12-foot-long tentacles that appear to rise out of the floor as if surfacing from the sea. © AMNH/D. Finnin
This kraken, a mythical sea monster, has 12-foot-long tentacles that appear to rise out of the floor as if surfacing from the sea. © AMNH/D. Finnin

Museum members can be the first to see the new exhibit at the members only preview on Friday, Nov. 10 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Members are encouraged to dress as their favorite mythical character for extra excitement. Member preview tickets are $2 per member.

Admission to Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids is $12 for adults, $7 for children, $9 for Kent County resident adults, $4 for Kent County resident children, and $2 for all museum members. Tickets include general admission to the museum.

For tickets and more information, visit Grand Rapids Public Museum.

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