I’ve been fortunate to have visited several natural history museums, where the world’s best fossil treasures are stored safely for all to enjoy. Natural history museums should be a first stop for all new fossil collectors, before embarking on that desert expedition or even splurging on acquiring your own collection. So here’s my own countdown of Top 5 favourite Natural History Museums that I strongly recommend:
NO 5: The Western Australian Museum (Perth)
Australia boasts a range of unique mammalian fossils such as giant sloths and bears. Sydney’s has a good collection of mammal bones and crystals/minerals, but I prefer the museum in Perth due to its stronger focus on dinosaurs and fossils. Interestingly, my favourite exhibit there is a well-preserved body (not fossil) of an extremely rare deepwater ‘Megamouth’ (Megachasma pelagios) shark! Australia’s many flea markets frequently throw up beautiful yet affordable fossils, such as of opalised ammonites or belemites not found elsewhere in the world. Best of all, Perth is close to home, offers a wonderful rest with wine, nature, and long drives, and the occasional beach where you can dig up your own fossil shells!
NO. 4: The Natural History Museum (London)
Over in London, The Natural Museum has a gorgeous collection of crystals, including famous pieces like the Devonshire Emerald and The Star of South Africa, as well as a dramatic display of many complete dinosaur fossil skeletons. They also feature what is probably the world’s largest collection of complete Plesiosaur fossils (think Lock Ness), as well as the original Archaeopterex fossil, which first established the link between dinosaurs and birds. When in London, don’t forget to drop by the stalls in Covent Garden and Portebello Market for the occasional rare fossil find.
NO. 3: Chicago Field Museum (Chicago)
Across the pond, The University of Chicago pioneered much of the science in paleontology (including carbon dating) and sponsored many fossil digs in the midwest and beyond. Its Field Museum, stocking many of its finds, is a must-see for all serious collectors. It features a very well-stocked collection of interactive dinosaur exhibits, including sabre-teeth tigers and other prehistoric giants. It is mostly a Mecca for all serious collectors because it holds the largest, most complete, and most famous fossil of all time: Sue the T-Rex! When in the area, enjoy the architecture with a boat ride through the city, marvel at the works in the Art Institute, cheer on the Chicago Bulls or soak in the atmosphere at a baseball match at Wrigley’s Field, have a laugh at the comedy clubs, and take a short, pleasant stroll – assuming you’re not visiting the Windy City in winter! – over to the Sheld Aquarium where you’ll be surprised by a wide assortment of live fauna including whales, dolphins, and *gasp* komodo dragons.
NO 2: The American Museum of Natural History (New York)
Since you’ll probably be passing by New York en route Chicago, make sure you drop by the one and only American Natural History Museum. This is where Night at the Museum was set and you can actually see a T-Rex that looks very similar to the playful one in the movie! It is the classic stop with probably the LARGEST collection of good fossils in the world, and displayed in the most pristine (and accurate) form. By far the most amazing dinosaur specimen I have ever seen is here, an Edmontosaurus annectens dinosaur ‘mummy’ with impressions of its actual skin texture and other soft tissue preserved! I don’t need to encourage you to enjoy a hotdog or a run through Central Park just next to the museum, or a play or shopping at Broadway, but note that there is an amazing natural history collectibles shop in SoHo called The Evolution Store that is certainly worth a visit.
I had difficulty even finding a natural history museum in Taiwan (none exists in Taipei!), and only managed to find this drabl-looking museum in Taichung. Looking at its average – and sometimes incomplete – exhibits of a few Dyrosaurus phosphaticus, Pterosaur, or Triceratops, you’ll be surprised by how this museum came out tops among the other world-class museums above. That is until… you visit its museum shop. This amazing shop and its sister branches nationwide offer by far the widest selection of fossils and casts I have ever come across. Dinosaur eggs, raptors, similodon, pterosaurs, mammoth, triceratops, and yes, even a life-sized T-Rex for sale and at reasonable prices. I went absolutely wild. Here’s a sweet memory of the place that will make every fossil collectors’ dream come true:
Hope you’ll enjoy these places as much as I did!