The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

with 3 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself were desirous of getting out together and experiencing something new to us here in Pittsburgh. So we hopped into the Mobile Oppression Platform (my pet name for the Toyota) and drove over to Pittsburgh’s Oakland section, where the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is located. Parking cost $10, and non member admission tickets ran us $25 a head.

I’ve been to the British Museum in London, and quite obviously – the American Museum of Natural History back in NYC – so I’m a bit jaded by scale and scope, but this is one spectacular institution here in Pittsburgh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 115,000 square foot museum was founded by Andrew Carnegie back in 1896, and is one of several cultural institutions which the founder of U.S. Steel endowed while feeling guilty about the Homestead Strike and massacre. The museum also incorporates an art museum into its design, and you can move freely between the two once inside. It was a cold day in Pittsburgh, and a Sunday, so there were lots of family groups moving around inside with their kids. The Oakland neighborhood surrounding it hosts multiple cultural institutions and churches, in addition to the university properties.

We saw several interesting exhibits, notably the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians and Polar World: Wyckoff Hall of Arctic Life. As is usually the case with a museum, we didn’t see everything on the first go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of the art on display during this visit was eminently modern, and the curatorial intention seemed to revolve around hot button modern day political issues. It was a nice space, and a great collection. Apparently the museum’s total collection include some 22 million individual specimens and artifacts, with some 10,000 items on public display.

There’s a lot of behind the scenes science work going on, we were told by museum staff. This includes the so called “Alcohol House” which is where they store the remains of collected animals and plants for future curation or study in sealed jars of alcohol.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mineral rooms were fascinating, and quite well presented. Normally this is the sort of thing which a humble narrator walks right past, but this particular exhibit pulled me right in.

An old friend of mine once described walking around a museum like this as producing a psychological haze which he described as becoming “uberplexed,” a nearly narcotic level “high.” I can tell you, I was uberplexed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big draw at the museum, obviously, involves Dinosaurs. Several diorama displays were on offer, and every kid in the museum was required to walk into this room and throw their arms into the air while yelling “rawwr.”

Ever wonder how different this experience would be if instead of ‘Dinosaur’ we used ‘Gigachicken?’ I’ll betcha that Dinosaurs would have probably tasted delicious – grilled with a bit of salt and pepper and maybe a squeeze of lemon. As a human, it’s my responsibility to assess first how I would kill one, then wonder what it would taste like. Alpha predators have to alpha, yo.

20 guys with spears, working in tandem, that’s how you’d kill it. That’s how they used to do elephants and mammoths. It would also make sense to have dug out a muddy pit in advance, to trap it in one place so it’s easier to poke at with the spears. Gigachicken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The institution is famous for finding and identifying the Diplodocus speciation back in 1899. The skeletons above are identified as Diplodocus carnegii.

Back tomorrow with more from Pittsburgh, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 13, 2023 at 1:00 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I’ve been to the one in NYC. My Aunt from Queens took me when I visited her. This one looks great too. Are the (what looks like) piles of gold arms supposed to represent something, or is it abstract for interpretation?


    February 13, 2023 at 5:30 pm

  2. […] The section of Pittsburgh where you’ll find the campuses of major universities – notably University of Pittsburgh or UPITT and Carnegie Mellon (as well as hospitals and medical centers, several museums, and a gaggle of religious buildings) – is called Oakland. Oakland is divided up into distinct sections, but I’d be lying if I could tell you anything about them yet. The shots in todays post are from my literal third visit to the area since moving here, and the last time I was here it was all indoors at a museum. […]

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