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Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids Examines the Relationship Between Nature and Legend 

Opens Feb. 16

PHILADELPHIA, December 7, 2018

Stories of mythical beings have been with us for thousands of years. These legends, which were sometimes inspired by fossils or living animals, continue to inspire us today. Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids, opening this winter at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, traces the natural and cultural roots of some of the world’s most enduring creatures of myth.

Opening Saturday, Feb. 16, Mythic Creatures features unique cultural objects that highlight the surprising similarities and differences in the ways people around the world have envisioned and depicted mythic creatures. Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Mythic Creatures includes imaginative models and cast fossils of prehistoric animals to investigate how they could have — through misidentification, speculation, fear or imagination — inspired the development of some legendary creatures.

For example, visitors will discover how narwhal tusks were believed to be magical remnants of unicorns, how dinosaur fossils may have been mistaken for the remains of griffins, and how tales of sea monsters may simply have been sightings of real creatures such as the giant squid.

Exhibit highlights include a:

  • Vibrant sculpture of the African water spirit Mami Wata.
  • Replica “Feejee mermaid” of the type made famous by showman P. T. Barnum, created by sewing the head and torso of a monkey to the tail of a fish.
  • “Life-size” model of a European unicorn.
  • Dramatic model of a kraken, whose tentacles appear to rise out of the floor as if surfacing from the sea.

Interactive stations invite visitors to:

  • Rearrange scale models of mammoth bones to look like a giant human skeleton.
  • Build their own dragon and watch as it comes alive in a virtual environment.
  • Watch video interviews with experts highlighting the significance of mythical creatures and their possible real-life counterparts.

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids will be on view through Sunday, June 9, 2019.


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