10 September 2013

Interlude in Pittsburgh

Posted by Jessica Ball

I grew up just outside of Washington, DC, within an easy metro ride of the Smithsonian museums, so I consider myself a bit spoiled. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate other museums when I see them, and this weekend when I was down in Pittsburgh, I got to see the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. In terms of collections and curation, it’s pretty darn impressive. It must be nice to have a rich patron!

The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh were founded in 1895 by (you guessed it) Andrew Carnegie. The Museum of Natural History is a great resource for the local universities (the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon are right there), and the friend from Pitt’s geology department who gave me a tour has spent a lot of time working there. There are top-notch dinosaur and mineral collections, and I spent a good chunk of time being intensely jealous that Pitt geology students get to use them in classes! And there is a life-size Diplodocus named “Dippy” out front, which just catapulted me into geologist heaven.

Any museum with a full-scale dinosaur statue outside is doing things right. Also, it has  a scarf.

Any museum with a full-scale dinosaur statue outside is doing things right. Also, it has a scarf.

IMG_0704

Apparently the scarf gets changed seasonally. (That’s the Cathedral of Learning in the background.)

Naturally, I spent a lot of time ogling the sparkly rocks.

Minerals should always be displayed in dark, dramatic rooms.

Minerals should always be displayed in dark, dramatic rooms.

Or like this!

Or like this!

Fluorescent minerals are always drool-worthy, too.

Pretty...

Pretty glowing rocks…

Infinite minerals! (This is the best teaching collection I've ever seen, hands-down.)

Infinite minerals! (This is the most awesome teaching collection I’ve ever seen, hands-down.)

Pretty things again

Vesuvianite, looking much nicer than anything I ever saw on Vesuvius

Something blue

Something blue – azurite or lazulite?

Not sulfur, although I can't remember what it was

Not sulfur, but very sparkly and yellow.

More pretties

Native elements

The dinosaur hall was just as impressive. (Sometimes it’s just fun to squeal like a little kid over dinosaurs – and I’m pretty sure we did more squealing than the little kids that were there!)

I love the 'durrr' expression. Has to be the teeth.

There were ginkgo leaves scattered on the ground, which made me happy.

Sauropods!

Sauropods!

Baby sauropod!

Baby sauropod!

The "chompy" dinosaurs

The “chompy” dinosaurs (therapods)

That's a library back there. That's right, a library where the reading nooks look out over a dinosaur exhibit. Why doesn't my school have this?

That’s the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh back there. That’s right, a library where the reading nooks look out over a dinosaur exhibit. Why doesn’t my school have this?

Quetzalcoatlus - aka "a pterosaur the size of an F-16"

Quetzalcoatlus – aka “freaking scary pterosaur the size of an F-16”. The last time I saw one of these was in Big Bend, Texas, where they were first discovered.

After the dinosaur-squealing, we had lunch and swung by the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. And when they say ‘cathedral’, they’re not kidding! It’s the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere¬†and it’s covered in Indiana Limestone, which means in addition to looking awesome from a distance, it’s full of teeny little fossils, too.

Very big.

It sure gets you to stretch out your neck before your study session!

Walking through the inside is, I kid you not, like being at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts. Definitely Hogwarts.

This is the Commons Room. There was also Hogwarts-related graffiti in the bathrooms.

I kept expecting to see robes and pointy hats on people

I kept expecting to see robes and pointy hats on people

Beautiful!

Someone should totally put house banners up there…

Headmaster's job, maybe?

Headmaster’s job, maybe?

And just to reinforce the Hogwarts reference, there was Quidditch practice outside.

It's a tough job to be the Snitch, apparently.

It’s a tough job to be the Snitch, apparently.

Working on my thesis doesn’t leave me a lot of time for relaxing, but I had a great time visiting Pittsburgh (and it’s not all that far away from Buffalo, either!)