break from the pervasive chill of winter. A number of Milwaukee County's
cultural or educational institutions are free admission to county
residents on Mondays, including the Mitchell Park Conservatory and the
Milwaukee Public Museum.
The recently refurbished Conservatory (a.k.a. "The Domes") is free 9AM
to noon, so that was our first stop. The Arid dome was set to seasonably
cool (but not cold) temperatures, but it was still comfortable to walk
around in and admire and wonder at the amazing gnarly shapes of the
palms, cacti, succulents, and other thorny flora of the desert climes.
The Tropical dome is always warm and moist, and provides layer upon
layer of greenery to enjoy. As always, I was struck by how much wealth
there is in the threatened tropical forests, as you can see cacao, figs,
bananas, and citrus fruits and other staples of our diet among the
orchids and the creepers.
The Show dome has changing displays, and this month was doing the
"Garden Railroad" show with large-gauge model trains running between
flowering plantings and, this year, a whimsical collection of Lego
Then, we went over to the Milwaukee Public Museum, with our particular
objective to see the newly mounted Hebior Mammoth, which the Museum has
obligingly located in its main lobby. The story of the mammoth skeleton
is an interesting one. A number of mammoth skeletons have been found
about 30 miles south of Milwaukee in rural Kenosha County, and were
excavated by Marquette University researchers in 1994. Unlike in the
movies, the bones did not go immediately to a museum, but lay in the
basement of the property owner awaiting a buyer for more than a decade.
Interest was sparked when the bones were accurately carbon-dated to
being more than 14,000 years old. This is significant because the bones
had been found "disarticulated" meaning separated, bearing cut marks
from butchery, and in company with stone tools, which showed evidence of
human activity in North America a millennium earlier than the Clovis
culture, which had previously been believed to be the earliest. In
addition, the skeleton is exceptionally complete, with 85% of its bones
Donors purchased the bones for the Museum in 2007, and the articulate
cast of the impressively large skeleton has recently been put on
display, with a more detailed exhibit in the works. (In particular, I
would like to have the butchering marks pointed out: at present, there
is no guide, and I wasn't sure if I could pick them out or not.)
While there, we also went into the "Butterfly Wing" for another dose of
tropical air, and to enjoy the sight of the beautiful insects flying
free. We did not stay very long, but did linger over the Victorian
Museum exhibit, looked over a small exhibition from the Museum's coin
and currency collection, visited the Torosaur (another notable fossil)
and admired the taxiderimically mounted skin of Samson, the Milwaukee
Zoo's famous gorilla.
While downtown, we also nipped into the Milwaukee Public Library Central
Branch, and checked out several CD's not available anywhere else, which
made it a very good cultural day for us.