The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque consists of a museum, a planetarium and the Lockheed Martin Dynatheater, which offers digital 3D films on a five-story high screen. The museum preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of the state of New Mexico through extraordinary collections, research and exhibits. The museum’s aims to inspire a greater appreciation and understanding of the natural world.

1.Permanent Exhibits

Permanent Exhibits
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Startup is the first museum exhibit in the world to be dedicated to the development of the micro-computer. It is the brainchild of Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and philanthropist, and was his way to give back to the Albuquerque community that had supported him and Bill Gates during the early years of their work. The exhibit looks at early computers and shows how they completely changed the way that we work, live and play. The exhibit aims to capture and portray the excitement of the early days of personal computers and does so with one-of-a-kind artifacts, videos and interactive displays.

Emergence examines how and why life started on Earth. Constantly updated, the exhibit presents the latest scientific research from around the globe. The first part of the exhibit looks at the six elements that have been present on earth since its beginning 4.6 billion years ago: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Those elements make up everything on earth, past, present and future. Museum visitors are shown how the earth was formed and are given a timeline for Earth’s development, from its early atmosphere, to the emergence of life, first as single-cell organisms and then, many millions of years later, as entities made up of many cells. The exhibit traces the history of the earth through the ice ages and then takes a glimpse at the planet that we live on today.

Another focal point of the exhibit Emergence is the similarity in genetic basis that is shared by everything on earth. Every single thing on earth, including humans, has the same genetic background. A study of cell structure and movement helps museum visitors understand this ground-breaking fact. The displays also examine extremophiles, which are organisms able to thrive in all kinds of extreme environments. In particular, the exhibit scrutinizes organisms that grow in the caves of New Mexico. Finally, Emergence looks at various modern theories about the origin of life.

The Bisti Beast exhibit gets its name from the Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness Area of northwestern New Mexico, where, amongst other finds, the skeleton of a tyrannosaur was discovered in the early 20th century. Early paleontologists found specimens of this dominant large predator in the San Juan Basin, and excavations of fossil matter continues to this very day. In the past, fossil material dug up in New Mexico was sent to museums and laboratories far from its origins, but when the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science was opened, all fossil material unearthed in the state was sent to it instead.

The tyrannosaur was the largest predator and meat-eating dinosaur in Asia and North America in the Late Cretaceous period, seventy million years ago. It was a period of high global sea waters and intense heat throughout the planet. At that time, North America had a tropical climate zone, and for thirty million years was divided into east and west by a shallow seaway that flooded the interior of the landmass. During this time, the first tyrannosaur appeared in western North America.

Its origins are unknown, but scientists speculate that the first tyrannosaurs appeared in Asia and Europe during the Jurassic period and migrated to North America at a point in time when the global seawater levels were extremely low. The tyrannosaur that appeared in the Americas was a primitive being, with a simple skull marked by horny protrusions over each eye. The Bisti Beast exhibit displays two of these skulls, one being an adult skull over three feet long that belonged to an animal an estimated thirty feet long, weighing three tons. A smaller, sub-adult skull is also on show at the museum; it was excavated from the San Juan basin as well, on lands belonging to the Navajo Nation.

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2.The Planetarium

The Planetarium
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The T-Rex Attack is an exhibit of the second largest Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found. This specimen of the largest dominant predator ever to walk the earth is over forty feet long and is twelve feet high at the hips. It is estimated that the T-Rex weighed over six tons as an adult. The T-Rex was helped in its quest for prey by an acute sense of smell and great speed, powered by muscular legs.

The Hall of the Stars is an award-winning exhibit that attempts to explain the organization of the northern night sky. Using LED crystals, the display shows how the night sky changes seasonally and presents the viewer with the 1,100 most commonly visible stars in the northern sky. It also shows Messier Objects, which are a collection of well-known objects in the deep sky such as the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula.

The Naturalist Center is a hands-on educational room for visitors of all ages. Its focus is on the natural history of New Mexico, as shown through microscopes, native animals and touch specimens.

Fossilworks uses trained volunteers to demonstrate how dinosaur fossils are extracted from the rock matrix they are found in. In the past few years, the volunteers have prepared a Seismosaurus fossil as well as a Saurophagnax. All of the fossils in this exhibit are sourced from paleontological sites in New Mexico.

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The Planetarium at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is the largest and most technologically-advanced planetarium in the state. It has a full dome and is fifty-five feet in height. Regular presentations about astronomy and space science are given here to delighted audiences.

The Enchanted Skies show identifies planets, constellations, deep sky objects and astronomical events that take place in the skies over New Mexico. Sunstruck presents the wonder of our galaxy’s sun, which makes life on earth possible, but which also has outbursts that can affect our life on this planet.

Perfect Little Planet explores the universe with a family of aliens looking for the ideal vacation destination, with fun and learning dispensed alongside adventure and humor.

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3.Museum Programs & Ongoing Education

Museum Programs & Ongoing Education
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The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science has educational offerings suitable for all ages. Stego Steps is a program designed for children from 0-8 years of age and an adult companion. It promotes early learning about science through dance, art, journals, stories, observations and tours, and furthermore provides an opportunity for socialization and discussion of scientific themes.

Prehistoric Preschool is for children aged 3-5, accompanied by a caregiver. Natural history topics are examined in a supportive and fun environment, through crafts, songs, games, puppet shows and by investigating items from the museum’s collections. The program is child-centered and age appropriate. Children will meet the state fossil, Coelophysis, learn about the Jurassic swamplands and two of the dinosaurs active at that period, what characteristics make Pentaceratops a dinosaur, and why a pterosaur is not a dinosaur. Microscopes and other scientific tools will be used to explore New Mexico’s diverse terrains of mountains, grasslands, deserts and rivers.

Young Explorers Summer Science Program is a day camp offered to children from grade 2 to grade 8. Many themes are explored, and include botany, the various ecosystems of New Mexico, hiking, geology, volcanoes, sharks, mapping, astronomy and outer space technology, paleontology and museum science.

Garden Workshops for Families offers family groups with children aged 4-12 hands-on learning about biology, soil science and water in the desert in the outdoor garden setting of The Kiwanis Learning Garden. Children and parents will learn gardening basics, be taught how to test soil and learn how to build a worm farm. Independent learning is encouraged. Multi-media art projects are also undertaken by participants. The Junior Docents Program is for teens aged 13-17 who wish to learn to be an Educator in the museum’s exhibit halls. Teens involved learn to interact with visitors and are instructed by the scientists, curators, docents and volunteers of the museum.

Monthly lectures for adults and older children are offered and are presented by eminent scientists on an array of topics related to the scientific world. Past topics have included Martian meteorites, the search for alien planets, the United States National Gem Collection, New Mexico’s medicinal plants, and Birds of the Bosque de Apache, a wildlife refuge within New Mexico.

1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, Phone: 904-825-4602

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Things to Do in Albuquerque: New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science