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A Fascinating Visit to the Peabody Museum

Although I visited and ate at some of New Haven's greats like Mory's and Pepe's during my law school years, there were still lots of things that I missed the first time around like eating a hamburger at Louis' Lunch or catching a performance at Yale Repertory Theater.  So in an effort to catch what I missed and help those that end up in New Haven enjoy everything that Yale and the city have to offer, I'll be checking out these spots and reporting back to you.

This week I was drawn to the Peabody Museum of Natural History because of an event that was taking place there.  I never made it to this museum as a student and I wish I had, just like I wish I had paid attention to Yale events like the one that took place there last night and that are open to Yale students.  I encourage all of you that come to Yale to sign up for emails about Yale events so you won't miss out on great happenings around campus.

Last night, Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl With A Pearl Earring, gave a talk about her latest book, Remarkable Creatures.  I loved Girl With A Pearl Earring (the book and not the movie) given my background as an art history major, and had found fascinating Chevalier's ability to both create such an enthralling story around Vermeer's painting and accurately reconstruct the historical period.  So I didn't think twice about attending this event and getting to visit the museum for the first time.

I especially enjoyed the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and the Fossil Fragments exhibit dealing with human origins, which helped to refresh my memory of the timeline of evolution including Home habilis, Homo erectus, Home sapiens and others.  But my favorite display was the one that dealt with the history of fossil hunting.  The room detailed the discoveries of various paleontologists throughout history and Yale's role in the tale.  I loved reading about each of these individuals and where they made their discoveries.  I almost studied archaeology so perhaps that is why I enjoyed the personal tales of discovery so much.

And I anticipate that this is why I will also love Tracy Chevalier's new book.  Her talk was the best book talk I have ever attended, hands down.  She did not just read passages from her book as a way of discussing it, but rather told us about the history behind the book while showing us pertinent slides of Lyme Regis, England where the book takes place as well as slides of the paleontological finds described in the book.  Like her earlier works, the book weaves a tale around a real person--in this case, Mary Anning, who made extraordinary contributions to the field of paleontology (and has even been called the greatest fossilist the world has ever known), yet was largely forgotten due to her status as a woman in the male-dominated society of early nineteenth century England. Although she discovered several important specimens from the Jurassic period, she was not given credit at the time for the discoveries; the name of the male purchaser of the specimen would receive credit instead.

Because of the subject of the book, the Peabody Museum invited Tracy Chevalier to give the presentation and I am so glad as the talk was not only fascinating, but it led me to visit the museum.  And perhaps most important of all for those of you stressing about admittance to Yale Law School, I learned that Tracy Chevalier applied to Yale as an undergrad but got rejected. She has nevertheless gone on to write some of the best books I've read.  So if you don't get into Yale Law School it doesn't necessarily mean that you are not an extraordinary individual capable of accomplishing amazing things.


Rosie said:

I also attended this book signing... I am a huge fan of Tracy Chevalier. Nice entry.

# November 29, 2010 3:38 PM

Sarah said:

Remarkable Creatures is a great read indeed, I didn't think Chevalier would ever come close to Girl With A Pearl Earring, but I must say I thought it was terrific. Nice post, thanks for sharing.

# July 26, 2011 7:19 AM
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