The musty smell of old taxidermy is prevalent as jaguars and cheetahs frozen in defensive poses come into view. The walls are adorned with many protruding animal heads. A young boy somewhere in the distance is exclaiming “whoas” and “holy molys.”
Besides the occasional exclamation, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum on the Brigham Young University campus remains still and quiet in the early evening darkness.
Walking into the center of the main display room I instantly flashed back to ten years earlier and the last time I took in the same view.
Circling around the room stood displays of habitats with small animals staring back blankly from behind the glass.
Within the maze of displays, the classic museum feel was not lacking as the quiet was slightly filled with educational videos played in the background as the sound of waves hitting the shore and birds cawing were quickly followed by the male voice-over describing seagull feeding habits.
There are not very many life science museums that would have a quote from 1 Nephi plastered on one of the exhibit walls, but the Bean Museum would be one of them.
The scripture is located near the insect exhibit and the butterfly wall. From afar, the wall looks like a simple diagram of a large butterfly with the heading “Butterflies,” but upon moving closer there are hundreds of little butterflies of a variety of colors shaping the larger image.
Not only does the museum provide displays of taxidermy, but the most impressive aspect to visitors, according to museum workers, is the daily shows with live animals.
Museum worker Elise Evans sets a turtle, Otis, on the ground as three young children gather around and crawl across the floor following the animal’s example. She talks to the children teaching them about the turtle. Apparently, turtles can live anywhere from 70 to 100 years.
“My favorite part is talking with the kids,” Evans said. “I was one of those kids that was like ‘whoa!’ so it’s cool that I get to be the one teaching now.”
Another animal is requested and it happened to be a boa constrictor. I instantly recoil and the children, just as quickly, rush up to it. My learned fear has caught up with me as I remember reacting just as the children did ten years previous.
As the children’s mother led them past the rows of posed animals following the show, the young boy turns around and looks at Elise.
“Now, I want a pet turtle for Christmas,” he said.