Do you remember how the first time you gasped when you saw a bird take off in flight? The look in your eyes when you witnessed a sunset over the Grand Canyon? How about the way you couldn’t stop staring at that 100-foot dinosaur? How many moments have you experienced in life that truly took your breath away?
I just attended a talk by the NUS team that’s leading the mammoth task of bringing back Singapore’s first natural history museum, The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. It has been conspicuous how our country’s assortment of museums did not previously address our natural history heritage, therefore now I’m really glad that we will finally be able to enjoy Singapore’s only natural history museum by 2014.
I was aware that our region boasted the world’s oldest rainforest in Malaysia, endangered tigers in Thailand, and the world’s deepest oceans in the Mariana Trench, but was surprised to learn that Southeast Asia featured the richest biodiversity in the world. Even more surprising was that our 160-year old collection of 566,500 specimens was among the biggest in Asia! We really have an opportunity (almost a duty) to take leadership in creating a world-class natural history museum for our region.
Right now the team is raising funds for an iconic dinosaur exhibit for the central atrium of the museum. Singapore & Asia were part of Laurasia in the time of the dinosaurs, and fossils are aplenty even nearby in Thailand. Dinosaurs, now evolved into birds, can be found across 400 species in Singapore and are definitely relevant to us. Like many museums that feature dinosaurs, the team had looked globally for suitable specimens to acquire. They now have in their sights a rare set of 3 diplodocus dinosaurs – the largest dinosaur species – found at the same site and all in excellent condition, including a rare juvenile. The specimens are available at a reasonable price compared to past auctions. The museum now needs our support to raise public donations for the acquisition. Why should we help them?
Firstly, any insight into the history of life cannot possibly ignore the existence of these dinosaurs that first roamed the Earth. In this era where we are starting to question the sustainability of our impact on the planet, we would do well to contrast the 200,000 years that homo sapiens have been around against the 200 million-year reign of the dinosaurs before they became extinct, to remind ourselves about the fragility of life. And just as modern science contemplates the wonders of genetics, we have much to study and learn about the evolution of such a successful species. We need dinosaurs to inspire us to learn about ourselves.
These magnificent creatures have been instrumental in helping us understand geology and geography, shaping our cultural legends and social beliefs, and will endure as an integral part of our shared history (the Dragon Year’s just around the corner!) The spectacular specimens have great potential for further research, education, and knowledge creation and our local team has a proven track record of successfully exhibiting dinosaurs here. Being funded publicly, admission fees will be low and the exhibit will remain indefinitely there for all to behold. Such an exhibit will complete the claim to biodiversity for our museum, and lend star power to attract tourists for our shared economic benefit.
Every respectable natural history museum in the world has dinosaur exhibits to instill that sense of awe in its visitors. It seems like the NUS team is still financially some distance from making this dream a reality. Please donate to them here to play your part to building the best Singaporean institution we possibly can, that we can proudly tell our kids that we contributed to, and to recreate those authentic moments of wonder for them. Thanks for reading!