Museum Spotlight: Beneski Museum

From footprints to fossils, this gem of Amherst College is a must for museum enthusiasts.

Kids will always be fascinated by dinosaurs. To children, the ancient beasts stomp and roam between their budding minds and boundless imagination. Not long ago, my family and I paid a visit to the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. My little boy was thrilled to see the gargantuan dinosaur skeletons in this splendid facility. . . but truth be told, my level of excitement was just as high. This place brought out the kid in me.

Some like the T-Rex. Others prefer the triceratops. But hey, those are plain vanilla specimens! You’ve got to check out the dire wolf and cave bear. My favorite was Beneski’s “Irish Elk” (Megaloceros hibernicus). Back in its day, the poor beast plunked into a bog and was stuck there beyond its mortal span. The elk was out of luck, but fortunately for scientists, the bog was nature’s plastic baggie. The giant skeleton was more than ninety-percent intact and is one of the museum’s most incredible features.

The Museum of Natural History also contains a remarkable assortment of fossilized animal tracks, a humbling sign that nature is on the move in any age. There are mineral samples, meteorites, and fossilized birds and fish. You’ll find but a fraction of the collection in this very attractive museum. The staff was knowledgeable, friendly, and offered a warm welcome to weary visitors on a cold Amherst morning. I suggest a visit to all newcomers, but preferably in warmer weather!

The museum is located within the Beneski Earth Sciences building at Amherst College.

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