By Mary-Lou Watkinson
Each time I walk to my desk at Dickinson Hall, I breathe a mental sigh of relief when I see that the taxidermied moosehead has not crashed onto my computer.
In fact, this has not happened in the five months I have been there, but I still don’t trust the guy, (whom I named Walter, Walt, for short), to stay still.
Now, before you call me a crazy moose lady, I will have you know that the moosehead is one of many taxidermied species that shares a space with me at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s research building.
I started working there as a science-writer intern, in May.
While I don’t work in the actual museum building, working in Dickinson Hall, I get to see most of the collections for the museum that are not on display.
So, along with the taxidermied animals, Dickinson holds a plethora of dried plants and bugs.
Yes, the environment is very exciting.
It is so exciting, that when I arrived at my desk on the first day, Walter-the-moosehead wore Christmas ornaments and lights – what a festive guy.
As you might imagine, it was quite a sight to behold, and a little terrifying.
As Walt continues to loom over my computer, the fear of him falling down and smashing my computer, nonetheless, persists, (although, I am used to his intimidating antlers by now.)
So each week, I sit with Walt, more taxidermied animals, and animal pellets and bones.
A bit macabre, I know, but it’s actually cool.
But I don’t stay in that space the whole day. In fact, I walk around the building a lot to interview different researchers about their findings.
This, in itself, fascinates me, because I learn something completely new every time I write a story. One day, I’ll write about a new bird specie; the next, I’ll write about an ancient relationship between two species, and later, I’ll write about efforts to save a dying butterfly species.
Interviewing sources also gives me a chance to explore different parts of the building.
Dickinson Hall isn’t completely open to the public, so many people might not get to see all of the unique pieces the collections have to offer. A few of these include bottled aquatic life, such as dead sharks and fish.. There are also shells that are thousands of years old, tons of pressed plants and even a replica of the infamous Mayan calendar. (Ya know, the one that said we would die in 2012?)
Something new and exciting waits around each corner, including many ~wild~ animals and insects. (Are they still considered wild if they’re deceased? I’m going with yes.)
In my time spent with Walter, the scientists and meandering through the corridors of Dickinson, I have gained a new appreciation for museums. The people who run them work diligently to help visitors learn about the world around them, and there is just SO MUCH to learn!
So, to end this post, I want to encourage everyone to visit local museums. Even if you already have, there’s always a new exhibit to see, and I promise, you won’t regret it.
Mary-Lou Watkinson is a 20-year-old journalism senior. She has recently discovered a passion for design and coding, and she hopes to bring her talents to a big city once she graduates. When she is not working on homework or learning how to build a website, she is obsessing over Rick and Morty, hiking Paynes Prairie or reading a true-crime novel.