Giants, Dragons & Unicorns:
The World of Mythic Creatures

July 5-September 2, 2019

 

The world is full of stories about brave heroes, magical events and fantastic beings. Tales of mythic creatures have been with us thousands of years, sometimes inspired by living animals or even fossils. Some of these creatures symbolize danger—others promise to bring luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind’s greatest hopes, fears and most passionate dreams.

Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Giants, Dragons & Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures traces the natural and cultural roots of the world’s most enduring mythic creatures. The exhibition features unique cultural objects that highlight the surprising similarities and differences in the ways people around the world envision and depict mythic creatures.

The exhibition includes models and cast fossils of prehistoric animals to investigate how they could have – through misidentification, speculation, fear, or imagination – inspired the development of legendary creatures. You’ll discover how narwhal tusks were believed to be magical remnants of unicorn horns, how dinosaur fossils may have been mistaken for the remains of griffins, and how tales of sea monsters may simply have been fisherman’s tales of real creatures such as the oarfish and giant squid.

Giants, Dragons & Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures also offers numerous activity stations throughout the exhibition. You can rearrange scale models of mammoth bones to look like a giant human skeleton or build your own dragon and watch as it comes alive in a virtual environment.

Here are a few of the creatures you’ll meet. . .

Sea Monsters

Miles from shore on storm-tossed seas, with nothing but water in all directions—including straight down—a sailor cannot help but wonder what lurks in the depths. When the oceans were still unexplored, the fears of seamen often took the form of imaginary monsters. Many sea monsters include features from living animals. In the mind’s eye, a large tentacle could become part of a monstrous serpent. Such cases of mistaken identity, combined with tall tales and cultural symbols, may have shaped the sea monsters found in pictures and stories.

Experience the Scandinavian legend of the kraken, a massive creature with tentacles so large it could grab and sink ships.

Mermaids

Many people around the world tell of water creatures that are half-fish and half-human. These creatures are all different, yet surprisingly, they often have features in common. For instance, why do so many mermaids carry combs and mirrors? Why are they often depicted as beautiful, seductive, and dangerous—like the sea itself?  These details were passed from Europe to Africa to the Americas as travelers spread mermaid stories and images.

Discover Mami Wata, one of the most popular and powerful African water spirits and see a recreation of the “Feejee mermaid” inspired by P. T. Barnum’s infamous hoax, which joins sculpture and castings from a monkey skeleton.

Dragons

Stories of serpent like beasts with fabulous powers inspire awe in almost every part of the world. In Asian tales dragons ascend from the sea, lakes, and rivers, up to the sky, bringing rain needed for cultivation. In stories from Europe, dragons can slaughter people with their putrid breath, or spit fire and set cities ablaze. The earliest dragon legends date back thousands of years, and the creature still haunts our imagination today ala Game of Thrones.

Learn about the Chinese tradition of the dragon dance at the Lunar New Year with a parade dragon head and video then enjoy a fun photo opportunity with three dragons.
 

The forms and meanings of mythical creatures are as diverse as their cultural origins. Visit Giants, Dragons & Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures and find out why their appeal is universal and everlasting.

 

This exhibition is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (amnh.org).

 

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3D Dragon Printing Demonstrations
Wednesdays, July 10, 17, and 31
Saturdays, July 13 and August 17
Included with regular admission.

Mythical beasts are formed through the melting of plastics in an instrument of hot metal and infinite possibility. See an assortment of intricate models and mechanisms plus a large, articulated dragon.


Story Time at the MAC
Wednesdays,
June 5-August 27, 2019
25-30 minutes

Designed for kids 3-5 years-old but all children and parents welcome. Hear stories about mythical creatures and legends.

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Mythical Creatures
Summer Reading

Add to your experience visiting Mythic Creatures by reading more about the creatures you see. Check the Mythical Creatures summer reading list at a Spokane Public Library branch near you.  And show your Spokane Public Library card at the MAC to get $1 off your admission (one discount per card).

A partnership with