Ray Troll, The Eternal Coastline

Be prepared to look at the world in a whole new way – through the eyes of a walrus-and ammonite-obsessed scientist and an artist with a fondness for cheeseburgers, ratfish and trilobites – in this exhibition on Alaska fossils.

Alaska artist Ray Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, logged more than 10,000 miles and 250 days traveling the North American coast in search of fossils and the stories they tell. They visited museums, dove into research collections, hung out with fellow scientists and artists, and visited active dig sites via automobile, small airplane and boat.

This exhibition focuses on their Alaska fossil adventures and the remarkable stories that fossils reveal: the history of life on Earth punctuated by killer asteroids and mass extinctions; the ancient geology of prehistoric Alaska and its giant sea-going reptile, the ichthyosaur; the most beautiful of all fossils named after an Egyptian god (ammonites); the long-vanished polar desert landscape of Alaska’s Mammoth Steppe; the 13-feet-tall Mega Bear of the Pleistocene; the 50 million-year-old “walking whale,” a limbed ancestor to the finned species we know today; and the mystery surrounding the Lipscomb Bone Bed, a mass “grave” of hundreds of duckbill dinosaur bones.

Included in this hands-on, all-ages exhibition are life-size sculptures and models, images of prehistoric creatures and real fossils along with paintings, hand-drawn maps, and light and audio installations by Troll.



Sue Byrd


The grand opening for the new Rasmuson Wing and the Art of the North galleries, the new Alaska exhibition, and the expanded Discovery Center is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-17. Polar Nights also kicks off this weekend with half-price admission to galleries from 6 to 9 p.m. Polar Nights runs Friday evenings through April.

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