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‘Behind the Scenes: Plagues and Pestilence’

Mark your calendars for Friday afternoons this fall at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Come see scientists showcase collections in museum labs.

This post originally appeared on the Natural History Museum of Utah’s blog.

This year, the Natural History Museum of Utah’s (NHMU) annual “Behind the Scenes” offers museum-goers not one, but four opportunities to go behind the scenes with NHMU’s scientists. The weekly events kicked off on Friday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. with an appropriately spooky theme: plagues and pestilence.

The crowd-pleasing “Behind the Scenes” features exclusive access to rarely seen collections objects. But this year, it includes the opportunity to interact with four NHMU collections and research scientists about their particular area of study and hear and ask questions about their ongoing research.

“We know that NHMU’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ is one of our most popular programs, and we’re committed to continuing the tradition of bringing our collections, and the stories they hold, to our visitors,” said Jason Cryan, executive director of the Natural History Museum of Utah. “This year, we’re offering both depth and breadth, and in a way that ensures the health and safety of our visitors. On Fridays in November, the public will have new opportunities to go ‘Behind the Scenes’ and the ability to engage directly with scientific experts who will bring collections objects—as well as the theme of Plagues and Pestilence—to life. So, there is one more reason to visit the museum this fall, especially on a Friday afternoon!”

“Behind the Scenes: Plagues and Pestilence” will take place on Friday afternoons from 2-4 p.m. in the Level 3 or Level 4 Learning Labs, making it a great after-school treat for students. The events are free to museum members and included in the price of museum admission.


Nov. 5

Level 3, Dry Caves Lab

Mammalogist Katrina Derieg will explore how natural history collections may be the key to predicting and preventing the next outbreak of a novel disease. See the mammals and their parasites that carry and spread diseases and the types of samples we take to study pathogens. 

Nov. 12

Level 4, Naturalist Lab

Paleontologists Dr. Randy Irmis and Carrie Levitt-Bussian will be explaining paleopathologies. Come see the fossilized bones we have that show infections, diseases and re-healed breaks. Also, see some of our fossilized insects underneath a microscope.

Nov. 19

Level 3, Dry Caves Lab

We all have a new familiarity with masks in the midst of the pandemic. Join anthropologist Dr. Alex Greenwald to learn about masks created by Native peoples of North America, which were used for much different reasons than our current surgical style masks.

“This year’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ format hopes to create an engaging and fun afternoon that further enhances a visit to the museum,” said Randy Irmis, chief curator and curator of paleontology. “My colleagues and I are excited to give our guests an inside look at collections objects that tell stories of ‘Plagues and Pestilence’ from a natural history perspective. Specifically, we’ll be sharing how mammoths and mastodons may have died; the role of mammals in carrying disease; and how bones can provide a history of infections, diseases and violence. We’ll also offer guests the chance to learn about masks created by Native peoples of North America, which were used for much different reasons than our current surgical style masks. With these distinct opportunities, we have striven to create a setting for fascinating and meaningful interactions for the public.”

For additional information and details on the event, click here.