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Friday April 18, 2014
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U-M Exhibit Museum ID Day

 

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"Ah, now look at this." His eyes light up. "Was this fossil grown in freshwater? No. This was definitely grown in salt water. It's four hundred and fifty million years old, and how did it find its way into the Great Lakes? We were part of the sea at one time." The family nods and stares, clinging to his every word.

Once a year, the U-M Exhibit Museum of Natural History fills its hallways with long display tables staffed with experts in anthropology, geological sciences, zoology, horticulture, archaeology, and paleontology. Then they help people identify stuff they've found — this family's fossils, but also rocks, critters, bugs, and flowers.

The bearded gentleman with the fossils is interesting, but across the aisle are rows and rows of spectacular insect display boxes. George Harmon is manning them, and he showers me with fascinating details of insect life. These magnificent insect specimens are all kept here at the museum — neotropical iridescent butterflies, gigantic (and I mean scary huge) beetles, brilliant dragonflies, cicadas, and katydids. They're loaned out to researchers across the globe and occasionally shown to students but rarely hauled out en masse. ID day is a special event. George interrupts himself to tell a little boy with a magnifying glass about the difference between the katydids and the cicadas. He even imitates their calls.

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