The bones of a Blue Whale stretched three bus lengths above our heads as we walked through the foyer of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. The monster whale skeleton is the crown jewel of the UBC natural history museum, which carefully preserves and displays over 500 ancient and current exhibits. For kids who stop to examine bugs or pick up rocks and shells to collect, this museum will be their holy grail.
The collections are kept on the lower floor, accessed by a long ramp. A young man at a table greeted us with whalebone, teeth and baleen spread across it. We got to touch the specimen we learned about how whales eat and why their bones are porous. The museum offers these types of interactive displays daily, so kids can get hands-on learning with some of the artifacts.
The aisles are divided into six different collections with easy to recognize symbols so you can either meander along to discover what interests you, or go directly to what you love. A young boy ahead of us scanned the symbols and walked purposefully toward ‘Fish’ with his mother hurrying to catch up. We decided to take our time and peruse the exhibits which range from mushrooms and butterflies to dinosaur fossils and tetrapods. Our daughter found an Elephant Bird egg particularly fascinating.
Right now the museum is featuring an ‘Ecosystems in Play’ exhibition for kids, which includes Phylo – a game that lets you collect, trade, and play with cards based on real-life organisms. You can find tables beside the artifacts where kids can sit and play. There is also a scavenger hunt available at the entrance, which was the highlight of our visit. You locate certain items, identify them and draw arrows to show how they are connected in an ecosystem.
If the kids are tired after all that exploring, the theatre plays a documentary on how the Blue Whale skeleton was found, excavated and put back together. Our whole family thought this was fascinating! There is also a reading nook at the back of the museum where children and parents can take a break to read books about the natural world. There is so much to see, you definitely need to come back a couple times to take it all in!
Tips to make the most out of your visit:
- Parking at UBC can get crowded during the week, so unlike many destinations, this is a good one to visit on the weekend.
- There are some interactive displays, but this is mainly a museum for observing so it is best suited for the 7+ crowd or keen observers.
- There is a small cafe behind the admissions desk where you can eat lunch and snacks.
- You can come and go so if you need to top up parking or head out for lunch you are welcome to return.
- There’s always something new happening at the museum, so take a look at the calendar for upcoming events and exhibitions.
- One evening a month, the museum is open for admission by donation. You can find that information on their calendar too.
Enjoy a day immersed in the fascinating world of biodiversity at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum!
Beaty Biodiversity Museum
2212 Main Mall, Vancouver
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
By Alex Cubitt