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NHMLAC Announces Winter and Spring Programming for the Natural History Museum and La Brea Tar Pits

Author: Newsroom

Los Angeles, CA (January 22, 2024) — The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announce their slate of winter and spring programming for the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park and La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park. This mix of family-friendly and adult programming and events features a wide range of exhibitions, hands-on activities, talks, and performances both in-person and online. In addition, NHMLAC community scientists will spearhead a number of research initiatives and expeditions open to the public that will highlight the Museums’ ongoing impact and discoveries and allow Angelenos to get involved.  

Below is a list of currently-scheduled* programming and exhibitions. Visit NHM.ORG and TARPITS.ORG for future updates and more information.

*All programs and events are subject to change. Check our websites for the latest information and updates

Natural History Museum

100 Carats: Icons of the Gem World — Taking place in NHM’s iconic gems vault, this new special exhibition features dozens of spectacular 100+ carat gems, including the world-famous Jonker diamond, which is one of the world’s largest and purest cut diamonds. More information is available at: nhm.org/100-carats

Schedule: On view through April 21, 2024

Admission: Free with Museum admission | Free for Members 

Images: 100 Carats

Sacrifice Zone: Los Angeles — Merging art installation, performance, and activism, Sacrifice Zone: Los Angeles transforms the Otis Booth Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County into a typical home along the I-710 Corridor in South L.A. The immersive experience will explore the daily health challenges of living in sacrifice zones—places in our city that have been devastated by ongoing environmental problems such as oil drilling, industrial toxins, and vehicle exhaust. During the day, museum visitors can explore the installation, which is activated by live performances in the evening. SZLA is presented by USC Arts in Action and co-sponsored by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. More information is available at nhm.org.

Evening Performance Schedule: January 26 and 28. 6:30 pm–9 pm.

Daytime Admission: Free with Museum admission | Free for Members 

Evening Admission: Free 

ChocoLAte: From Beans to Bliss (Ongoing Web Series) — This year-long series of stories and experiences focuses on the diverse cultures, talents, and flavors of Los Angeles through the lens of chocolate. Throughout 2024, NHM will continue its Being LA series with monthly videos celebrating the traditions, history, and applications of the world’s most popular confection and will be complemented throughout the year with onsite programs and events, including a culminating chocolate festival. 

ChocoLAte: From Beans to Bliss is sponsored by Bank of America.

First Fridays | From Feelings to Pheromones — The beloved after-hours Museum event is back, with live music, DJs, topical discussions, signature cocktails, pop-up experiences, and much moreJoin us this season as we explore reproduction and propagation in the natural world. Come by each month for an evening full of dancing, drinks, and one-of-a-kind presentations you won’t find anywhere else. More information is available at nhm.org/firstfridays 

Schedule: March 1, April 5, May 3, June 7. From 5 to 10 pm

Admission: $20 for Non-members | Free for Members

Images: First Fridays

First Fridays is sponsored by KCRW and US Bank, in partnership with IAMSOUND.

Earth Day — Celebrate Earth Day with NHM with a day full of programming, hands-on activities, getting up close with scientists and specimens, meeting Spongebob, and so much more!! The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County protect and share more than 35 million specimens and artifacts, the largest natural and cultural history collection in the western United States. By understanding the world around us, past and present, we gain a better appreciation for our planet and for all who share it. 

Schedule: April 20, 11 am–3 pm 

Admission: Free with Museum admission | Free for Members 

City Nature Challenge — Every April, just in time for Earth Day, this popular community science global initiative returns! Participants the world over are invited to document nature in their own cities with smartphones and cameras to help scientists better understand local biodiversity. (More information below.)

Schedule: Taking place from April 26 to 29, learn more at nhm.org/citynaturechallenge.

Images: City Nature Challenge

Bug Fair — Join NHM for a two-day festival celebrating our winged, multi-legged, and squirmy friends for the 38th annual Bug Fair! Visit a variety of exhibitors and see everything from exotic insect collections to unique and cool bug-related products. ASL interpretation for Bug Fair will be provided by Pro Bono ASL. More information is available at nhm.org/bugfair.

Schedule: May 18 & 19

Admission: Free with Museum admission | Free for Members 

Images: Bug Fair

Nature Gardens Exploration — Swing by the Nature Gardens to dive into Nature Garden Explorations, tours led by Museum Educators and focused on topics such as birding, bug netting, nature journaling, and ponding. Topics rotate over the course of the year, so be sure to check online to see which explorations are currently available. More information is available at nhm.org/naturegardens.

Schedule: 11 am on weekends, meet near the pond in the Nature Gardens

Dinosaur Encounters* — Fun, educational, and interactive, Dinosaur Encounters features NHM’s new and improved life-size dinosaur puppets and focuses on different topics, including theories on dinosaur behavior, extinction, adaptation, and the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. Dinosaur Encounters is family-friendly, and each performance is about 20 minutes long. More information is available at nhm.org/dinosaurencounters.

Schedule: Returning mid-February, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 and 11:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm

Admission: $6 per person + museum admission or free for Members

Images: Dino Encounters

Dino Encounters is sponsored by Superior Grocers. 

*Please note: Puppets are very large, realistic interpretations of wild animals and may be frightening to some children. 

Sensory-Friendly Dinosaur Encounters — NHM’s sensory-friendly Dinosaur Encounters performance provides a warm welcome to guests who need a little less stimulating environment and the opportunity to move around during the show. House light levels remain brighter and sound levels are turned down. Guests are welcome to come and go as they wish throughout the performance. There is a relaxation zone in the back of the hall if guests need a break. Everyone is welcome to attend these performances with the understanding that the theater is “shush-free” and there may be a certain amount of sound and movement in the audience. The monthly event will feature ASL Interpretation provided by Pro Bono ASL. More information is available here.

Schedule: Returning in February, the 2nd Saturday of each month at 11:30 am

Admission: $6 per person + museum admission or free for Members

La Brea Tar Pits

SoCal Museums’ Free-For-All Day — La Brea Tar Pits is excited to once again participate in SoCal Museums‘ annual Free-for-All on Saturday, March 23. On this day, over 30 museums in Southern California representing art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science will open their doors and invite visitors to attend free of charge. Advance ticket reservations are required. More information is available at tarpits.org.

Schedule: Saturday, March 23; 9:30 am–5 pm

Excavator Tour — The Excavator Tour explores the Fossil Lab, where real paleontologists work, our historic excavation sites, and Project 23, where live excavations can be seen. More information about excavations is available at tarpits.org/experience-tar-pits/excavations.

Schedule: 1 pm on weekdays; 10:30 am & 1 pm on weekends

Discoveries from the Tar Pits –- Drop by to learn some of the lesser-known stories of the Tar Pits, including active research and recent discoveries. Topics change daily.

Schedule: 3:30 pm daily

Ice Age Encounters — Encounter the Ice Age as we dig into the past to uncover the mysteries of some of the extinct creatures who roamed Ice Age Los Angeles over 10,000 years ago. Experience this dynamic, 15-minute show featuring a life-size adult saber-toothed cat puppet, a live performance, and film projections that bring the distant past to life. This one-of-a-kind, multimedia performance transports guests back in time to come nearly face-to-face with a moving, roaring extinct saber-toothed cat. Performed in an intimate theater setting, this show is great for the whole family and children of all ages. More information is available at tarpits.org/tar-pits-programs/ice-age-encounters.

Schedule: Returning mid-February, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 and 11:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm

Admission: $6 per person in addition to museum admission or free with membership

Images: Ice Age Encounters

Dino Encounters is sponsored by Superior Grocers. 

*Please note: The saber-toothed cat puppet is very large and may be frightening to some children. 

Museum Admission – NHM and La Brea Tar Pits

Members – FREE

Adult — $15.00

Senior (62+) — $12.00

Student — $12.00

Children (3 – 12) — $7.00

Children 2 and under – FREE

Unless otherwise noted, all events are included in the price of admission or free for members.

Admission is always free for NHMLAC Members, California Pre K–12 teachers with ID, Active or retired United States military with ID, CA EBT cardholders with ID, and USC Students and Faculty with ID. In addition, L.A. County residents receive free Museum Admission from 3-5 pm Monday through Friday.

Community Science Volunteer Opportunities

City Nature Challenge: The popular community science initiative co-founded by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) and the California Academy of Sciences invites participants the world over to document nature in cities with their smartphones. In 2023, more than 66,000 people across 46 countries and six continents documented more than 1.87 million wildlife observations. Taking place from April 26 to April 29, learn more at nhm.org/citynaturechallenge.

Images: City Nature Challenge

State Park Insect Collections — Austin Baker will visit state parks across California, collecting insect specimens for his work barcoding every insect species in the state for the CIBI program.

SnailBlitz: NHM’s annual community science slugfest returns from February 1 to March 31. The search for snails and slugs known as SnailBlitz asks for volunteers to scour Southern California for snails and slugs during the two-month run and share photographs of as many of the slimy critters as they can find. Past contributions have uncovered non-native and endangered species. Whether they’re in your backyard, at the local park, or along the trail of your favorite hike, every snail or slug photographed will help NHM scientists like Twila Bratcher, Chair in Malacological Research and Associate Curator of Malacology Dr. Jann Vendetti, learn more about the biodiversity of Southern California. SnailBlitz is part of the larger SLIME (Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments) project on iNaturalist

Alligator Lizard Mating Season: Alligator lizard love is in the air and on the sidewalk in the early spring (the season can vary with weather patterns, and wetter winters have meant more observations of mating). NHM’s Curator of Herpetology Dr. Greg Pauly, asks everyone to watch where they’re stepping and have their phones ready to capture this intense and sometimes days-long mating behavior in photos— preferably video. Observations from community scientist volunteers continue to shed new light that could not be otherwise studied.

New Research Initiatives

Marine Biodiversity

Leslie Harris, NHM’s Senior Collections Manager in Polychaetes, is participating in research about marine biodiversity off the coast of Ilo, Peru. Harris and fellow researchers in the U.S. and Peru are surveying the populations of coastal marine invertebrates—crabs, worms, starfish, clams, and other spineless critters—using the power of iNaturalist to share observations and identify species living in the intertidal and subtidal areas there. Harris has also created an iNaturalist project with the aim of assembling observations of species living within the temperate current stretching from southern Ecuador through Chile.

Understanding Nature and Los Angeles Biodiversity (UNLAB) — This mentorship program centered on equity in the sciences welcomed its first eight mentees in early July. Part of the NSF RAMP program, the UNLAB program, is for post-baccalaureates who did not have an opportunity to conduct research during their undergraduate degree program, with a focus on those who have been historically excluded and are underrepresented in the natural sciences. Mentors from NHM and La Brea Tar Pits will guide mentees through research projects exploring the history of Los Angeles biodiversity or the impact of humans and urbanization on Los Angeles biodiversity. Mentees will also participate in professional development activities and have opportunities to learn more about museum careers.

Microplastics and fish

Two NHMLAC scientists, Bill Ludt, Assistant Curator of Ichthyology, and Aaron Celestian, Curator of Mineral Sciences, have been awarded a $357,564 two-year grant from California Sea Grant and the California Ocean Protection Council to study microplastic consumption over time in California fishes using the museum’s specimens. Ludt and Celestian will be looking at potential differences in microplastic consumption in southern versus northern California from 1940 to the present, and analyzing the chemical composition of the plastics and, potentially, identifying their sources. This is believed to be the first study of microplastics in museum fish collections going back in time that focuses on the Pacific Ocean.

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