Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Plaine Museum: A Legacy of Learning

The Plaine Musuem (really the Field Museum in Chicago)
Visitors to the Plaine Museum of Natural History today would be surprised at its humble beginnings.  It all started in 1866 with Dr. Alexander Plaine.  A medic in the Civil War for the Union forces, after the war Dr. Plaine turned back to his first love of geology.  While taking soil samples in southeastern Ohio, Dr. Plaine happened to dig up a bone.

At first he thought it might be the bone of an ordinary animal, but soon Dr. Plaine uncovered a mighty tusk.  The doctor recruited some local farmers to help him dig up the rest of the bones, uncovering the skeleton of a mastodon, an ancient elephant-like creature that roamed the United States until about 10,000 years ago.

Not finding any suitable facilities willing to take the exhumed skeleton, Dr. Plaine decided to use his family inheritance to create a new institution of learning in his hometown of Rampart.  At the time it was called only the Rampart Center for Natural Sciences.  Dr. Plaine recruited some of the greatest scientific minds in the world to work for his new institution, which he promised would be dedicated to providing knowledge to all the peoples of Rampart and the world.

As the center's need for funding began to outstrip what Dr. Plaine had in his bank account, he decided to turn part of the center into a museum.  There for only a penny--a lot of money in those days--a person could see wonders like the mastodon Dr. Plaine had discovered as well as learning about exotic plants and animals from every inhabited continent in the world.

By the time of his death in 1905, the museum had become a mainstay of Rampart society.  A new structure was built to house it and in 1910 the Plaine Museum of Natural History was officially launched.  Its primary exhibit remained the mastodon skeleton, which was set in the main gallery and renamed "Alex" in honor of the late Dr. Plaine.
Alex the mastodon, circa 1910
Today the museum continues to grow, drawing an average of six million visitors per year from every corner of the globe.  Visitors today can not only view static exhibits, but also take part in interactive displays, and even watch movies in the museum's IMAX theater.

Carrying on Dr. Plaine's work, the Plaine Museum continues to attract some of the most brilliant minds of the scientific community to research every facet of the natural sciences.  Throughout its history, Plaine Museum scientists have won a total of thirteen Nobel Prizes and have made thousands of patented discoveries that benefit the lives of ordinary people every day.

Suffice it to say, Dr. Plaine would be proud of the institution he began so long ago.

(Fun Fact:  The source of Alex the mastodon is a combination of two things.  First, the famous T-Rex Sue in the Field Museum.  Second, in Auburn Hills, Michigan there's a walking/bike trail I use sometimes where they found a mastodon years ago.)

Q is for Quit While Ahead:  The Scarlet Knight Retires


  1. That you know the Nickname of the mastodon skeleton in the museum in your fictional city - well, it's gone beyond impressed.

    And it's interesting to boot. Cool.

  2. And then one day, Ben Stiller came in and applied for a job as a night watchman...


    Are you a museum buff? I love museums. I always wanted to go see Sue when the skeleton came around.

    Rusty's right: the level of detail here continues to impress. You're really on to something here; many author blogs are boring (remember: three fingers are pointing back at me!) but yours is actually fleshing out the book and providing insight that might lure in casual readers, like me. Except that so far, I don't see any hint of the kind of lurid sex scenes that will draw in the women who right now are reading "30 Shades Of Gray." But I expect we'll get that as we get towards the end of the alphabet.

  3. I've never been to the Field Museum, even though I love these types of establishments. I've had four chances so far to see King Tut's mask and have yet to lay my eyes on it.

  4.'ve detailed all of the buildings in this city too. That's really impressive. I think you've got enough going on here that you could write endless stories in the world you've created.

  5. Amazing to think a man can start a museum from some bones he dug up. That's innovation.
    @Michael Impressive indeed
    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  6. Sounds like the sort of place I'd love to visit. ^_^

  7. During my trip to Chicago in February, I saw this as we drove to Soldier Field. We were amazed to get tickets to a Bears game so cheap from that nice man in the van. Although, when it started getting dark and nobody turned the lights on, we thought we were scammed.
    We should've just gone into the museum. The Egyptian, T-Rex banners looked pretty cool.

  8. By the way, which one is Alex? The skeleton with the tusks or the little dude with the mustache?

  9. And the "Plaine Museum" certainly isn't plain. And as one who has had the great pleasure of going to the "Natural History Museum" in London and ended up being mistaken as one of the exhibits in the "cave dude" display, I thank you for this.
    Have fun and happy writing.

  10. Neighbors have found mastodon teeth in my neck of the woods (Missouri). Very cool.

  11. no no no
    It needs to be the skeleton of a dragon!
    I will no longer be satisfied unless there's a dragon!
    It doesn't h ave to be black, though.

  12. Wonderful post! I am one state east of there; will have to check it out! Cool...



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