Immerse yourself in Cuban nature, culture through Museum’s latest traveling exhibition
Discovery Place Science
For a limited time, you’re invited to go all in on Cuba as Discovery Place Science celebrates the island nation’s remarkable biodiversity and amazing culture in our latest traveling exhibition. Created by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), ¡Cuba! delivers both the expected and the unexpected through a deep dive into a country that, despite being just 94 miles from the United States, is often still surrounded in mystique.
A Cuban welcome
It’s not hard to figure out where your Cuban adventure begins – a 1955 Chevy Bel Air sits at the entrance of the fully bilingual exhibition welcoming you inside while paying homage to Cubans’ ability to maintain older vehicles despite the government’s restrictions on imports and sales.
From there, it’s time for a quick geography and history lesson to get you acquainted with Cuba. In this space, you’ll learn that Cuba isn’t just one island but rather an archipelago made up of more than 4,000 islands. There’s plenty of other fun and interesting facts, too.
Exhibition co-curator Ana Luz Porzecanski encourages everyone who visits ¡Cuba! to watch the 10-minute video offered in this introduction area. The video, she explains, provides a balanced synopsis of Cuban history, starting with the arrival of people to the island some 6,000 years ago. It’s a great way to kick off your virtual visit to Cuba.
Here are five additional parts of the exhibition you don’t want to miss:
1. Caves of Cuba
Cuba is honeycombed with caves, created over millions of years as water dissolved underground limestone. The cave area of the exhibition includes a replica of the largest owl that ever lived as well as evidence of human history in Cuba. The caves of Cuba not only provide a glimpse into Cuba’s past, but also showcase its incredible biodiversity of today, including the Cuban flower bat. (Be sure to look up or else you’ll miss it!)
Pro tip: Utilize the interactive video display in the cave area to see how Cuba formed and what it may look like hundreds of years from now.
2. Zapata wetlands
Stop at the Zapata wetlands, which cover 1.5 million acres and are the largest wetlands in the Caribbean, to witness a Cuban crocodile leaping from the water in pursuit of its prey. Here, you’ll also learn about
endangered species –fish, frogs and birds – found only in these wetlands. Plus, check out a tracking backpack used on birds like warblers and osprey to follow their travels from the United States to Cuba every year.
Pro tip: Look closely among the reeds and you may catch a glimpse at a rare bird – a rail – that’s elusiveness has resulted in it never being photographed and rarely even seen.
3. Humboldt National Park
Stretching from the mountains to the sea and now carefully protected, Humboldt National Park is among the most biologically diverse island sites on the planet. Animals once thought extinct have even been rediscovered in Humboldt. In this area of the exhibition, discover the amazing variety of species that call the wetlands home, from the smallest bird in the world – the bee hummingbird – to a solenodon, which is a venomous insectivore and one of 11 mammals native to Humboldt’s protected forests.
Pro tip: Check out the video in this part of the exhibition to learn more about co-curator Porzecanski’s 2015 research expedition here. The trip represents the largest American-Cuban expedition in 40 years!
4. Coral reefs
Not far from the main island of Cuba, along a string of jewel-like keys called Gardens of the Queen, fish zip past banks of coral studded with colorful starfish, sea fans and sponges. To protect this vital diversity, Cuba has created the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean. Dive into the exhibition’s immersive diorama, which boasts a shark, a sea turtle and other marine life, and experience one of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Pro tip: Look at the pillar corals located on the left side of the diorama. Porzecanski tells us that exhibition creators worked tirelessly to find the right material to re-create the texture of these corals. What did they end up using? Ralph Lauren bath towels!
5. The café
In this interactive part of the exhibition you can participate in a friendly game of Cuban dominos, explore Cuban food traditions including a hearty stew of meat and root vegetables called ajiaco, get a better understanding of what baseball means to the country and learn the basics of Cuban coffee. Sit a spell at the café tables and watch footage of everyday life in Cuba.
Pro tip: At the café table dedicated to Cuban coffee, you’ll find the adult version of a scratch-and-sniff sticker: A white, speaker-looking circle tantalizes your nose with the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Yum!
So there you have it – five cannot-miss moments in ¡Cuba! the exhibition. But there’s so much more to see, too, including beautiful works by Cuban artists, a look at the tobacco industry as well as sugarcane’s role in Cuban history, the region’s agriculture and more.