The first full weekend of every month, Bank of America customers get free general admission to more than 150 museums nationwide with their Museums on Us program. We thought we'd check out what was on offer in Las Vegas and the Natural History Museum popped up. Why not? We love museums. It seemed a fine thing to do on a hot, sultry Sunday afternoon.
We are rarely negative about museums, but this one was a dud. Many of the signs, typed copy and images pasted on construction paper, looked like they were prepared for a junior high science exhibit. Information was contradictory between one exhibit and another and many statements were arguable. An example? “The Egyptians were the first to use water for irrigation.” Really? what about the possibility of the Chinese or a Middle Eastern culture doing it earlier or at the same time? And then there were the misspellings … Ugh! In general, the place was tired. The exhibit cases needed dusting. The carpets needed vacuuming. The taxidermied wild life needed some attention. We love museums and this was a sad experience.
To be fair, there were two exhibits might be considered worthwhile. The first was a “world-class traveling exhibit” (their words, not ours) entitled “Hatching the Past” which explored dinosaur family groups and dynamics and dinosaur eggs. Though it was far from “world-class” and geared specifically to children in our opinions, it provided some paleontological insights into life on Earth 65 million year ago and gave us some food for thought (more of a “snack” for thought than a meal).
The “Treasures of Egypt” exhibit allowed us to explore life along the Nile in ancient Egypt and a replica of King Tut's tomb as well as some insight as to how 20th century archeologists worked to unearth some of the King's treasures. Perhaps, it's the lure of the ancient Egyptians that caught our fancy, but the display, though comparatively small, was interesting and obviously a centerpiece of the museum.
We wandered from room to room. In one, animated dinosaurs roared. In another we heard the sound of a coyote howling when we pushed a button and watched an unimpressive spotlight shine on a yucca plant or a particular mineral. Two live, lethargic pythons were on display in a large glassed area. Stuck in a side corridor, sure to be missed, was a small display on New Zealand glow worms. Some hanging fiberglass whale models, a couple of aquariums and a “don't put your fingers in here” pool was the tribute to marine life. Perhaps we're jaded, but we expected more substance and better presentation.
This would have been better billed as a children's museum, rather than a natural history museum. There were lots of things for small hands to touch and do. I think there might have been enough content to entertain kids although the audio presentations in the dark, closet-like Tropical Rain Forest exhibit were so long and dry, the kids just ran through pushing all the buttons and paying little attention to what was being said.
All in all, the visit was a disappointment even though it was free. Had we paid the $10 admission fee, we would have felt rooked. If this was in a small town, we'd say they made a good effort. However, Las Vegas is no small town. With all the apparent opulence and income generated by the casinos here, you'd think some bucks might be funneled into the upkeep and improvement of their local museums.