The Museum’s West Wing houses our fabulous anthropology exhibit, Footsteps Through Time: Four Million Years of Human Evolution. The permanent exhibit—covering 7,000 square feet and featuring more than a hundred touchable replicas of early humans, primates, and futuristic cyborgs (part human, part machine)—officially opened to the public on February 9, 2002.
This compelling exhibit is the only one of its kind on the West Coast. It transports visitors on a fascinating 65-million-year journey through time, spotlighting the major anthropological finds relating to human evolution. Footsteps Through Time represents a milestone in the Museum’s history. It is especially significant as it reflects the Museum’s original mission: to display the life and history of humankind.
The Hominid Hall showcases a variety of intriguing dioramas, including a Neandertal burial from more than 60,000 years ago depicted exactly as it was discovered by archaeologists, a Cro-Magnon exhibit featuring a replica of Chauvet Cave in France (home of the world’s oldest cave paintings), and a touchable reproduction of Kenyanthropus platyops, a find by the renowned archaeologists Meave and Louise Leakey.
The next stop is the mind-boggling Time Tunnel, traversing millions of years and chronicling 200 of the most significant human technological breakthroughs. Then, visitors can marvel at the Human Lab, offering a rare glimpse of the future of human evolution as influenced by the inventions of gene selection and cloning. The final stop is the hands-on Dig Site, where visitors can roll up their sleeves and learn the proper methods for digging up a prehistoric dire wolf, look for the Laeotoli footprints, and determine the implications of modern finds for future archaeologists.
The galleries offer an in-depth and intriguing look at human evolution, according to the Museum’s Emeritus Curator of Physical Anthropology, Rose Tyson. “This exhibit represents the most comprehensive physical anthropology display that the Museum has showcased since the 1915 Panama-California Exposition,” says Tyson, who was with the Museum of Man for 30 years.
These galleries were painstakingly designed to engage visitors into thinking about age-old questions about time, genetics, and the environment. The exhibit is unique in that guests are invited to touch nearly all of its contents. Another exhibit highlight features five renowned scientists—Donald Johanson, Cheryl Knott, Meave Leakey, Tim White, and Shirley Strum—who discuss their work on videos situated throughout the venue.
In addition to a $1.95-million grant from the National Science Foundation, the exhibit received $400,000 in support from local sponsors, such as the Parker Foundation, the James Copley Foundation, the Ackerman Family Foundation, the Billingsly Foundation, and the Dr. Seuss Fund. The funding also covers ongoing workshops, lectures, family programs, and educational websites related to the exhibit.
This project integrates the talents of all Museum departments, many renowned scientists, and a host of specialists to bring forth a tactile and exciting product for an international community. We invite our members to share in the excitement of this monumental program to gain a better understanding of the future by expanding our knowledge of the past.
The Primate Hall portion of the exhibit closed May 2016.
This project is supported by the National Science Foundation and Invitrogen.