American Museum of Natural History opens Cuba exhibition to rave reviews

Posted: 20-Dec-16 12:05

The American Museum of Natural History, a New York institution, has dedicated a corner to the sights, sounds, life and culture of the Cuba, featuring everything from sloths to baseball. It’s aim? To help lift some of the mystery associated with the Caribbean island following years of travel and trade embargoes…

American Museum of Natural History opens Cuba exhibition to rave reviews

Cuba has long invoked some pretty spectacular and unique images in the minds of US citizens. Shrouded in mystery thanks to years of trade and travel embargoes, while icons like old American automobiles and the colourful streets of Havana managed to make it into the movies, there is still so much many people don’t understand about the country.

For most, the breadth and diversity of its ecosystem remains very much on the unknown list, which is the reason one of New York’s most esteemed institutions has decided to open its doors to a new showcase aimed at educating the public on exactly what can be found on the lush tropical haven. “!Cuba!” began at the American Museum of Natural History on November 21, and is advertised as a "boutique-sized exhibition" which, as the New York Times puts it, tries to do honor everything from “the cars and cigars to Santeria rites, rice and beans, the Cienfuegos Elephants baseball team and – live and in changing colour – the chameleon-like Allison’s anole lizard”.

The newspaper’s review of the event continues by describing some of the sights and sounds that are involved in the presentation. There is a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, indigenous music playing from a radio, and references to so major events from modern times, such as the US embargo, which has recently been eased by President Barack Obama in a historic attempt to re-initiate relations between the US and Cuba after decades without formal communication; the economy of the Caribbean island, its links with the Soviet Union, and the rise of the "pedicab", a bicycle-taxi that grew in popularity after the collapse of the USSR in Russia and Eastern Europe led to a shortage of fuel on Cuba.

The phrase “immersive experience” seems to be everywhere at the moment, and “!Cuba!” is certainly not oblivious to the trend. The exhibition itself is laid out like a typical street scene on the island, which, the NYT scribe describes, is “an invitation to saunter”. Of the natural world, items include dioramas of Cuba’s three main ecosystems – Alejandro Humbolt National Park, the Zapata Peninsula, the coral reefs at the Gardens of the Queen, meanwhile the now-extinct Cuban giant owl, sloths, "Jutias" (a brown-furred rodent) and the strange-looking solenodon (think shrew, only with longer snout and venomous saliva glands) all on display. The exhibition runs until August 13, 2017.


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