Activities & Resources
The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits553in Los Angeles, CA 90036
about The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits:
Happily for us, however, the tar turned out to make an excellent bone preservant, and now we can see over one million bones and fossils on display at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.
The Museum houses thirty exhibits, including some complete skeletons of woolly mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers, dire wolves, and other species that lived in the area, and cases full of bone bits and pieces.
Life-sized robotic animal sculptures recreate the sounds and movements of the animals, and give a real sense of what the creatures might have looked like.
Children get a kick out of the tar-pulling exhibit, which gives them a chance to use all their strength to try to pull a rod out of a vat of the actual tar; it's hard work, and it makes it easy to see how even a huge woolly mammoth would have gotten stuck!
An exhibit to send chills down the spine shows the only human remains ever excavated from the pits. The 9000-year-old skeleton is the apparent victim of MURDER - a Chumash Indian-like woman, with her head bashed in.
Visitors can look into a glassed-wall working lab to see paleontologists - with toothbrushes - cleaning up the fossils that are still being dug out of the pits. As of early 2009, they are hard at work on the first intact woolly mammoth to be found in the area - part of an exciting find underneath a nearby parking lot which doubled the museum's collection size in one fell swoop. Zed the Woolly Mammoth (as he's been dubbed) could keep the paleontologists busy for years to come.
Two films are shown continuously in two museum theaters. One tells the history of the tar pits and their excavation. The other, as a gesture to the hundreds of disappointed visitors who came to the Page expecting to see dinosaurs, is a vivid animated story about life and death in that other pre-historic time. Be warned: there are no dinosaur bones at the Page.
Another warning: some of the exhibits may seem a little too real, and therefore a bit scary for younger children, particularly the robotic animals and the dinosaur movie.
Take the little ones for a stroll through the Atrium in the center courtyard of the building. Lush greenery and a pleasant stream offer a serene place for a rest, and if you're lucky, you might see the turtles and fish who live there.
The Museum is located in Hancock Park, a newly renovated block of green that happens to contain several actual tar pits, and some life-sized sculptures of Pleistocene Epoch animals. Be sure to leave time for running around in the Park, and for peering into the dig at Excavation #91. The activity at this free viewing station has been temporarily halted, while the museum focuses all of its energy on Project 23, the massive fossil cache (including Zed the giant woolly mammoth) pulled out from under a LACMA parking lot in early 2009.
In the Park, across from the front entrance to the Museum, is a viewing stand where visitors can see models of a woolly mammoth parent and child, as they try to free another mammoth struggling in the tar. While it's a compelling display, again, it can be a little sad for sensitive children.
Since the Page is part of the Natural History Museum,, a $50 Family Membership gets two adults and four children into both museums for a year, plus advance notice of events, and a discount at the gift shops and workshops.
The Museum also offers special tours to groups of ten or more; adults are $5; children (5-10)$1; and children under five are free. Call 213.763.3218 for reservations.
Summer camp programs offer kids ages pre-K through eighth grade some fascinating behind-the-scenes experiences, as do periodic family overnights. For more info about these programs, call 213.763.3348.
Admission is free on the first Tuesday of each month.