A Few of my Favorite Natural History Museums

At the top of my list is the French National Museum’s Gallery of Paleontology or ( galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée)     This is the first museum I’ve ever explored where I got tired from looking before I was finished looking! There were so many fossils it would take pages to list them all.

The museum is housed in a three story building with the ground floor dedicated to comparative anatomy. It’s a brilliant arrangement because this floor lays the groundwork for understanding what you’ll see and read about on all the other floors. The Comparative Anatomy floor is filled with skeletons of all species of modern animals. I didn’t spend much time there because all of the fossils were on the upper two floors: second floor vertebrate fossils and third floor invertebrate fossils.

To touch on the highlights: TONS of infrequently displayed dinosaurs: Hadrosaur, Triceratops,  Carnotasaur, Pachycephalosaurus, a sauropod, and many skulls

Mammals: Whales, including Basilosaurus, Red Deer, gliptodonts, wooly rhino, Lucy (a replica I think), Saber tooth cat, and some elephant relatives,

Reptiles: Sarcosuchus, mosasaurs

Fish: ostracoderms, pterapsids, placoderms. Best part: more species were lined up in a display that laid out the evolution of fish from the earliest species through the modern.

There were birds as well; sadly my memory and my notebook have lost their names!

Then there are the invertebrates! In many museums, these creatures often fail to get much attention. Not so here! Trilobites, ammonites, gastropods, brachiopods, and more than 50 of each so one can examine details and variations galore! Plus crinoids, graptolites, and way to many more to get to in a single day’s visit.

While I’ve left out much of what is available, if you are ever in Paris (and you love fossils) make sure you get a multi-day pass and enjoy this museum over several days. It’s not far from Notre Dame and the subway system is easy to navigate, even if you don’t speak a lick of French!

Next on my list are two smaller and privately run museums that are mostly showcases of fossils for sale. These museums are where the big museums go when they need a t-rex or a dunkleostus or anything in between! They are both worth getting off the beaten path to see.

Dinosaur Resource Center- Woodland Park, CO
The Black Hills Institute- Hill City, SD

While these establishments lack the spit-and-polish of the large-scale and well-funded museums, they offer views of species less prominent in larger collections that center around the more famous fossils. The Dinosaur Resources Center was where we encountered our first Edmontosaurus before it was shipped off to a lareger, more popular home.

Finally, these last museums round out my top ten list, not necessarily in order of preference.

Utah Field House Of Natural History – Vernal, Ut
Dinosaur National Monument – Northwest Colorado
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History – Washington, DC
The American Museum of Natural History – NYC, NY
The Houston Museum of Natural Science – Houston, TX
LaBrea Tar Pits – Los Angeles, CA
Denver Museum of Nature and Science – Denver, CO

Yeah, I’ve also got a bucket list! This group deserves mention, because they are on the Top Ten of many other fossil reviewers, but since I can’t recommend first-hand, I can only put them on my wish list!

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology – Alberta, Canada
The Chicago Field Museum – Chicago, IL
Harvard Museum of Natural History – Boston, MA
Peabody Museum of Natural History – New Haven, CT
Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum), Vienna – Vienna, Austria

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