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Sunday 16 December 2018

Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline at Oakland Museum of CA

A few weeks back the kids and I visited Oakland Museum of California to check out their latest exhibition, Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline

If you've got kids that love prehistoric creatures, vivid artwork with fun hidden surprises, and hands on fossil fun, then this is the exhibition for you. 

Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline focuses on the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the land, and water, right here along the Pacific coast and features amazing illustrations by artist Ray Troll along with actual fossils and sculptures. Imagine a world where woolly mammoths, saber tooth cats and giant sloths live in harmony with the modern world. Thanks to Ray Troll's vibrant and imaginative illustrations, that world can be experienced - albeit safely in a gallery. I'm not sure I'd want to come across a saber tooth cat in person!

While the art works on display are all by artist Ray Troll, they were created in collaboration with paleontologist Kirk Johnson, whose research found him exploring the west coast and the creatures that once lived here. We learned a little about both the artist and scientist including he fact that two of their favorite things, hamburgers and walruses, appear in many of the artworks. While the walruses may be pretty easy to spot (they are rather large, after all), the hamburgers tend to be hidden. The girls enjoyed looking for the hidden hamburger in the artworks. Can you spot any?

While my kids enjoy looking at colorful artworks, having a hands on component is what always makes an exhibition a hit for them. I'm sure this is true of many kids. Luckily the exhibition features several hands on activities. The kids had fun playing with assorted fossils, sorting them in many different ways and imagining what they once would've looked like.

The ground sloth skull that they could stick their hands - or faces - into was pretty popular too.
There was an awful lot of pretending to pick it's nose through the giant nostrils too! The nearby full skeleton was off limits but the kids were pretty amazed to see what it looked like. The bear skulls provided much entertainment too. Look at those teeth!

Speaking of teeth, the fossilized teeth from a Desmostylia were pretty cool to see, but the kids were more interested in the sculpture of this aquatic mammal in the entry to the exhibition. Imagine this guy leaping out of the water as you surf! Good thing he was a herbivore! Then again, so are hippos and I wouldn't want to swim near one of those!

This woolly mammoth illustration was one of my favorites from the exhibition. Although we always think of woolly mammoths as being, well, mammoth in size, these particular guys were teeny tiny compared to their more well known counterparts. In fact, the illustration is actually shown at life size! The kids all agreed that a mini woolly mammoth would make a pretty great pet!

The mini woolly mammoths weren't the only local prehistoric creatures that were smaller than today's ancestor. This tiny prehistoric horse illustration is also shown at life size. Maybe not so good for horse riding but it sure would make a cute pet!

Given that the exhibition focuses on fossils found along the West Coast there was plenty of content based on our local area as well as places the kids are familiar with from our California travels. Seeing familiar sights such as the Campanile right here at UC Berkeley, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the tangle of freeways that are oh so common here made the exhibition feel a little more personal.

We were lucky enough to visit the exhibition while the artist Ray Troll was present. The girls enjoyed pointing out the hidden hamburgers that they'd found in his illustrations and asking him about the prehistoric creatures.

Ray was kind enough to follow us to the gift shop where he signed a copy of Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline for the girls as well as his Sharkabet book.

The kids and I really enjoyed checking out Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline. It's a great exhibition, as is the rest of Oakland Museum of California. If you're in the Bay Area I definitely recommend spending a day there. Crazy poses on the front steps are totally optional, but highly recommended!

Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline is on display through March 17th 2019.

Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak Street, Oakland and is open Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission starts at $15.95 for adults and $6.95 for youth (ages 9 -17). Children 8 and under are admitted free of charge. 

For more information visit http://museumca.org/

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