A couple days ago, after a grueling staff meeting about library security (in which a leg extended into her path was described as "assault" by one of the more antsy employees), I dashed to the Royal Alberta Museum, arriving only 30 minutes after I was supposed to meet my party. My trip had less to do with local colour than it did with plastic bricks. There is a group in the northern part of the province known as the Northern Alberta Lego Users Group. They get together to discuss issues, share ideas and build models. They have constructed several historic buildings/landmarks of Edmonton, which were on display at the Museum. Now, this is decidedly quirky and was just as delightful as it sounds. The Legislature model contained 120,000 bricks and required the equivalent man-hours of four years full-time employment. The group, whose leader I saw on the news, are quite proud that they only use normal lego pieces and do not glue their models together. I guess most people do. I had no idea that snobbery could exist alongside such horrific nerdiness, but there you have it. You can see some of their work at the link above.
The rest of the museum, though, was a bit of a hit-or-miss affair. The logo of the institution is a mammoth, which the lady at the ticket desk promised me was native to Alberta. He's named Moe and is only a replica of a skeleton. But, he's not even Albertan. He's another Utah transplant spending some time in the City of Champions. Odd symbol, if you ask me.
Our group steered away from the First Nations collections, because we're not that into them, as a people. We did check out the mineral collection (which felt a bit like a jewelry showroom to me) and the live bug collection. One member of our trio kept returning to the seeming impossibility of random mutations for what we were seeing (dinosaurs, walking sticks, etc.) The Bob the Builder Exhibit was a bit young for us and the other lego exhibit (Sea Adventure) was odd to me in that it presented not really sea animals, but lego models of sea animals. It was several steps removed from the actual item and could probably be the basis for a meditation on modern society by someone much cleverer than I.
I do love museum signage, though, and wish I could have a job in that realm. One particularly lovely example was on the plaque for the Irish Elk and read, "Ironically the Irish Elk is neither an elk nor exclusively Irish."
However, some things in the museum are beyond the pale. For me, I was entirely creeped out by the plastic model of a rotting mouse (seen above). Who thought this was a good idea? I mean, honestly? The picture doesn't quite do it justice, since the display allows 360 degrees of viewing angles and there is some surprising detail to those open sores. Oh, and the mouse is about three feet long.
For a city its size, Edmonton's really got some problems with their cultural institutions. I've experienced both the art gallery and the natural history museum now and both have left me shrugging my shoulders. I guess I shouldn't throw stones, based on where I'm from. But in its defense, Utah does have the Bean Museum and the world's largest dinosaur museum (at Thanksgiving Point). The art scene does leave a little to be desired, but I'll take Zion any day.