Frazier Museum exhibit explores natural history, science and folklore behind mythical creatures – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
There is no scientific proof that the elusive Bigfoot exists. the formidable Chupacabra (a cryptid known in Puerto Rico and Mexico as a kind of small cattle vampire) does not belong to an identifiable genus or species. And yet, stories of unclassified creatures have endured across cultures and throughout history.
Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the 7,500 square feet The Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Frazier History Museum explores the natural history of creatures like dragons and giants. It sounds cheeky. How do you create a historical exhibit out of cryptozoology – the study of creatures that probably never existed? But the exhibit is actually a cleverly disguised collection of anthropology, geography, paleontology, international history, biology, literature and archaeology. The flashy Pegasus the model is the bait, and the ancient Greek coins (Corinth, 650-510 BC) depicting the winged horse are the historical reward. The exhibition includes historical artifacts and fossils, as well as literary and historical accounts that help us understand how and why myths begin and persist.
Mythic Creatures is divided into four environments: creatures of sea, land, air and dragons. Several large-scale sculptures anchor each section: a giant prehistoric ape that resembles the creature known as Bigfoot, a unicorn bathed in fluorescent pink light, a giant eagle known as Roc. Fossils and preserved animal parts help illustrate how the natural world has helped perpetuate certain myths. Sailors sold narwhal tusks as unicorn horns; the dwarf elephant skull, with its central tusk cavity, could have been mistaken for a cyclops skull. The dragon exhibit also includes details of a woolly rhinoceros skull preserved for centuries in the town hall of a small Austrian town. According to local tradition, it was the skull of a dragon killed before the founding of the city in 1250.
In the exhibition on the sea, a sample of myths and stories collide. An authentic preserved giant squid tentacle is accompanied by eyewitness accounts of various classifiable giant squid sizes that may have been mistaken for apocryphal animals like the Kraken (an impressive floor model with 12-foot tentacles emerges from the floor of the exhibit navy) and the Sea Bishop. Ancient naturalistic drawings of the hippocampus, a hypothetical creature that possesses a horse’s head on a sea monster’s body, accompanied an explanation of how scientific theories of evolution developed, including the 16th-century theory that every land creature had an aquatic equivalent. The sea exhibit also features lesser-known myths like the Nasca, a type of killer whale that Peruvians believed to carry human heads as trophies captured in a ceramic sculpture from around AD 700, and a stone sculpture from 1502 of the Ahuizotl, an Aztec dog-like sea creature believed to lure people to their death by drowning by imitating a baby’s cry. The mermaid section alone is quite comprehensive, covering the commonalities of mermaid myths from many shared cultures, possibly due to international trade.
The Frazier hosts the exhibition until September 15. This is an optional exhibit, but admission includes the rest of the museum.