November 28, 2022

New museum site features intertidal pool, whale> COA natural history exhibits relocate to larger building

BAR HARBOR — True Muzzy knows his marine animals.

Or at least he’s learning about them. The 6-year-old Tremont boy and his 23-month-old little brother, Jeremiah Muzzy-Chaplain, spent part of their afternoon Sunday exploring the exciting world within an intertidal zone.

And they didn’t even get their feet wet.

Both boys turned out for the opening of College of the Atlantic’s Museum of Natural History, which recently relocated to a larger building. The new site, once the headquarters of Acadia National Park, boasts more than 35 exhibits, including an indoor intertidal pool, a whale skeleton, and dozens of mounted animals.

But True Muzzy and his brother appeared to like the intertidal pool the best. If the two weren’t poking or prodding at starfish and horseshoe crabs, they were dodging squirts of water from a sea cucumber or straining to pet a sponge. To Gail LaRosa, the museum coordinator, that’s just the kind of enjoyment the museum is supposed to provide.

“It reflects the mission of the college,” LaRosa said of the exhibits, and the response they evoke in children. “A mission which is the study of human ecology … how humans, animals and the environment interact.”

The museum creates its exhibits through the donations of animals from veterinarians, park staff and local police. Many of the specimens died when hit by passing cars, while others were found in the forests or washed up on shore. “We don’t do any active collecting,” LaRosa said.

But in the museum the creatures live on, frozen in time as they pounce on prey, nestle with each other or dive for the water. Each individual exhibit features at least one of the animals, some of which explain the effects of human pollution and waste on wildlife.

Many of the exhibits are created through course work at the college.

“What really makes this museum unique is that it is a student-produced museum,” LaRosa said. “They learn to preserve plants … to do the taxidermy. That you don’t often see in college natural history museums.”

Perhaps the highlight of the museum is the skeleton of a True’s beaked whale. The creature, which is about 10 feet long, was named by its discoverer, Frederick True. The museum is the only place in Maine, and one of only nine places in the United States and Great Britain, that the whale can be viewed. The creature makes its home in the depths of the North Atlantic where it is believed to feed mostly upon squid.

The museum is funded through the college, but also makes use of grants and donations. Coming exhibits will feature photos of endangered animals taken by photographer Rosamond Purcell and an exhibit of the endangered species of Maine.

The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, until Sept. 4. Once classes resume the museum will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

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