PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At the Delaware Museum of Natural History, “we’re a picture to the past,” said Austin Conley, the museum’s tour and outreach coordinator.
Austin said he spent many a day here as a kid. Now it’s his full-time job.
“We’re the only dinosaur exhibit in the state of Delaware,” Austin said as he showed Meisha the Dino Hall.
“Holy smokes!” Meisha said as she looked up at a Yangchuanosaurus skeleton towering over them.
Don’t recognize the name Yangchuanosaurus? “He’s actually an Asian relative to the Allosaurus, which is a lot more common knowledge,” Austin said. “Some people think they hunted in groups, which is a little terrifying when you’re having something that big coming after you, with more than one of them.”
The museum has an active collections and research department upstairs, with specimens of more than two million species of mollusks and more than 100,000 birds. Upstairs is also where the museum stores some of its overflowing supply of taxidermied animals.
“I wasn’t really expecting to see these kinds of animals here,” Meisha said.
Austin said the animals had been collected over the years, and some were too large or too beat up to display in the main galleries. However, they can be seen during behind-the-scenes tours at special events.
“It really is kind of a hidden gem up here,” Meisha said.
Visitors should look for Dude the Cat, a real cat who is the unofficial mascot of the museum.
“He was found by our maintenance manager,” Austin said. Dude is so popular, he is the star of several children’s books.
Then there are the other live animals. Austin brought out Maisey, a corn snake whose scales are a deep red.
“I am so obsessed with what we are looking at right now!” Meisha said. “When kids come in and these reptiles and amphibians all the animals are here, what do they get to do?”
“They do get to touch them,” Austin said. “We have animal shows in The Nook, and we have animals that make the rounds in The Nook. We have a really cool new uromastyx lizard (named Moto), which looks like a little dinosaur. There is a 3-toed box turtle. Right now, we have a bald eagle’s nest on the camera so kids can watch these birds grow up.
“It’s just a cool place to interact with things that normally you can’t see,” Austin said.
The Delaware Museum of Natural History is open seven days a week. It’s at 4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807.