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Whether you are interested in Dinosaurs, health, wildlife or gems, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science has plenty to explore.
Gems and Minerals
Colorado has a long history with the mining industry, and it is befitting that a core part of the exhibit pays homage to its foundations. The gold rush era in the mid-19th century attracted migrants to Colorado, and it was these mines that played a key role in the establishment of the state. Even up until today, mining remains one of the state’s leading industries. The exhibit showcases artifacts and local finds that were found during that period, including an eight-pound gold nugget that was unearthed in 1887 outside of Breckenridge. It was nicknamed Tom’s Baby and is the largest piece of gold ever discovered in the state.
Also on display are other dazzling gems and minerals from all around the world, including topaz from Brazil, opals from Australia, and zeolite needle sprays from India. Visitors will get a taste of walking through a mineshaft, and they can admire a Mexican silver mine covered with milky white gypsum crystals and stalactites. Alongside is a six-foot tall mining wall glistening with red crystals. It is modeled after a Colorado mine called Sweet Home Mine, which is most famous for its blood-red rhodochrostie crystals.
Konovalenko: Gem Carvings of Russian Folk Life
The exhibit showcases 20 gem sculptures from late 20th Soviet Union artist Vasily Konovalenko. Originally a ballet set designer, he later became known for immortalizing scenes from Russian folk life in semiprecious stones. His subjects are caricatures of ordinary Russians ranging widely from Cossacks to Siberian prisoners. Their whimsical expressions are carved entirely out of bright and vibrant ruby and amethyst, among other stones and gems.
In the 1970s, the communist party started accusing him of making fun of Russian people, which is one of the reasons that prompted his family to migrate to the United States in 1981. His collection came to Denver through Alvin Cohen, a trustee of the museum who helped acquire the museum’s current collection in the early 1980s. Currently, the exhibit is the only collection of Konovalenko’s works outside of Russia.
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The display centers on a pair of female mummies who were buried more than 3000 years ago as a way of introducing visitors to the world of the ancient Egyptians, who are known for their elaborate funerary practices due to the belief that the soul continues to live on even after death. The complicated and tedious process of mummification where bodies were dried out in hot desert sand and later wrapped in layers of linen was supposed to preserve the body for the afterlife.
Their obsession with death became what we most commonly associate today with the ancient Nile civilization. This is due to the large number of artifacts that have been left behind in tombs that are on display at the exhibit. They include canopic jars for storing organs, amulets to ensure the deceased a safe and productive afterlife as well as animal mummies that could be used as votive offerings or were buried as beloved pets. These objects buried for use in the afterlife also offer insights into the everyday lives and culture of the ancient Egyptians.
North American Indian Culture
The state of Colorado is steeped with rich Native American history and was home to a wide array of indigenous tribes. This section of the museum aims to reflect the diversity in the traditional culture and lifestyles of the Indians in Colorado and beyond, as well as how they have evolved to fit into modern ways of living.
The exhibit is divided into different regions. This is because historically, the way of life for Indians was largely determined by environmental factors such as climate, land, and the availability of natural resources. Over time, this led to the development of distinct cultures that makes each tribe unique on its own.
The display attempts to capture these differences in myriad ways, one of which is through housing. Visitors can witness authentically reconstructed traditional dwellings including the Hogan of the Navajo people, the tipi of the Cheyenne tribe, and the snow house of the Eskimos. Intricate indigenous handicraft work from weavings to pottery is also on display. Many of these crafts have been practiced for centuries and are imbued with deep meanings and significance.