For those of you interested on geology, biology, archeology, paleontology, zoology, ethnology, or anthropology this museum is well worth a visit, even if you have to go well out of your way to get there. It covers a broad span of scientific disciplines, but having earned a minor in geology, it has been my experience that if a person is interested in at least one of these disciplines, then he or she has a general interest in some of or all of the others.
The Natural World
Located on the campus of McGill University, a prestigious public research university in Montreal, Canada, and housed in Canada’s oldest building dedicated solely to being a museum, the Redpath Museum takes the visitor on a trip through the natural world. The exhibits cover a broad swath of disciplines, while constantly reminding the visitor of man’s place in the natural world and the impact that he has on it.
On the first floor is the Entrance Hall where there is an exhibit on marine vertebrates. Many of those displayed here, such as whales, seals, and turtles are animals whose origin is terrestrial, yet returned to the sea as the changing environmental pressures forced them to adapt.
The Dawson Gallery, named for Canadian scientist Sir Richard Dawson whose collections the museum was originally established for, on the second floor is home to exhibits about the early natural history of the Quebec province. Fossils and other specimens tell the story of life in Quebec from the earliest days of life on earth to the present day. Full-size dinosaur specimens such as a gorgosaurus libratus–I’m not kidding, that’s what it’s called–and a triceratops skull give you an idea just how large, fierce, and amazing these extinct creatures must have been. Also on the second floor are the mineral exhibits and the Hodgson gallery that houses an exquisite shell collection.
(The Redpath Museum recently published its own guide to the museum’s fossil exhibits. The book entitled The Fossils’ Tale explains how fossils form and what they can tell us about extinct species. For information on how to order the book click here: http://www.mcgill.ca/redpath/, and scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Finally, on the third floor, is a shift away from the natural world to a display on world cultures. Like I wrote above, this museum covers a lot of ground. The visitor will find cultural artifacts from all corners of the globe. Mummies, personal items, adornments, musical instruments, and many more objects of cultural and historical significance. Some, however, are not for the feint of heart. They include displays about shrunken heads from South America and well-crafted miniature shoes worn by Chinese women who suffered the cruel custom of foot binding. Take your time here as nearly 1000 items are on display.
For the university, the Redpath functions not only as a means to preserve its extensive collection, but also as a research branch focused on the evolution of life. Take your time while visiting this museum, as there is much to see and absorb. You will need at least two hours, possibly more as the artifacts are not only well displayed, but included with them are excellent descriptions that tell the story and tell the significance of each artifact. For the visitor, the Redpath Museum is a stroll through the story of life on earth and how that life, including man, existed, adapted, changed, and evolved.