Dinosaurs know how to party


Every first Friday of the month, the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum keeps the doors open late, expanding its patrons from the usual excited elementary school children to anyone who fancies combining an intellectual learning experience with play.

The event begins with a tour, continues with a discussion, and ends with live music (both successful DJs spinning, as well as up-and-coming bands). While entering the grand foyer, a childhood impression of the museum is replaced with big screens, visitors with intricate outfits, and a full bar. The place transitions from your typical county museum into a true Los Angeles nightlife venue.

On May 6, First Fridays attendees were welcomed with a tour of the museum's first exhibit at the Haaga Family Rotunda, led by Dr. Margaret Hardin and Dr. John Long, both renowned Natural History Museum staff members and experts in anthropology and research. Visitors were introduced to captivating displays of obscure artifacts and specimens, meant to develop our understanding of the future by studying the past and evoke questions, curiosity, and the desire to learn more.

An alarming discussion titled, "Can Mammals Keep Up When Climates Warm? Insights From the Fossil Record" led by Dr. Elizabeth Hadly, presented concrete facts supporting climate change and the impact it is having on our environment, ecosystems, and wildlife. About 400 people cringed as Dr. Hadly described the odd and frightening facts surrounding our impact on the environment, and how this behavior is occurring in the animal kingdom due to forced migrations and rare interactions between species not used to living in the same vicinities. Dr. Hadly said, "Though it took us as little as a century to colonize the North 20,000 years ago, these animals have taken two to five million years to evolve. Yet extinction of mammals is expanding on a massive scale. Our exploitation of the land will lead to mass extinction of more animals than already have become extinct." 

Though many come to First Fridays to learn about Pizzlies (an odd hybrid of polar and grizzly bears, with little ability to survive in either colder or warmer climates), some come for the partying. People waiting for their poison of choice line up at the full bar in the African Mammal Hall, decorated with modern, glowing cube side tables and low lighting. The atmosphere suggests a night of carefree dancing, as opposed to one of worry over climate change.

El Camino College student Kim Tso admits to coming to First Fridays for the music. "After seeing Yeasayer play last year when I came with my family for the first time, I was hooked," Tso said. She was one of the many fans that came out to the sold-out show to see the LA native, dance-punk band Moving Units perform.

"Are you talking to the bison? Because they can't hear you! And that's just a painted landscape," said lead singer Chris Hathwell, bringing attention to the lively and wild surroundings in the North American Mammal Hall.

Back in the African Mammal Hall across the building, experienced KCRW radio station DJs Eric J. Lawrence and Anthony Valadez (aka "the Curator of Cool") spun an eclectic set, pleasing fans with a diverse taste in music in front of stuffed Cape buffalo and a 16-foot giraffe from Kenya. The unique backdrop added to the exclusive experience that makes first Fridays an enjoyable attraction for its fans.

An eclectic group of people, stimulating discussions, and exciting performances attract new visitors every first Friday of the month to a museum that appears to be doing an excellent job of bringing history to the present.