Mini Museum 5: The Fifth Edition

Mini Museum 5: The Fifth Edition

The Mini Museum is back with the Fifth Edition! This is a new "grand collection" of 34 specimens from across time and history embedded in handcrafted acrylic. It's our biggest project ever!
$708,893 🎉
of $500,000 (USD) goal
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Hello, everyone!

We are Mini Museum. We're a team of researchers, artists, and explorers that have been creating incredible collections to share with the world for nearly a decade now. Our efforts have been helped along by the support of so many wonderful people and we're now ready to release the newest edition of the Mini Museum!

Large Fifth Edition Mini Museum Prototype

Since our first crowdfunding project in 2014, we've shared our journeys across time and space with people all over the world.

Nine years, 120 countries, more than 1,000,000 specimens shared... it's been an amazing adventure!

The Mini Museum is a personal collection of curiosities where every item is authentic, iconic, and labeled. It's carefully designed to take you on a journey of learning and exploration.

Encased in the highest quality Lucite acrylic, the Mini Museum will last for generations. It is a truly awesome collection that makes a wonderful gift for someone who has just about everything or for someone special you want to inspire. 

The Fifth Edition is a return to the grand collection format, billions of years of science and history. Collected, curated, and artfully displayed, MM5 also happens to be the largest grand collection we've ever produced! 

As pictured below, the Fifth Edition collection begins with the stellar heart of our solar system. The core of a primitive celestial body formed in the cataclysmic heat and violent aftermath of the sun’s ignition. We'll journey from this exuberant beginning more than 4.6 billion years ago to visit with our closest neighbors in the cosmos.

Turning to Earth, we enter a world bathed in fire. Billions of years pass before the first stirrings of life, and then suddenly, it is everywhere.

We will explore it all… from armored fish in the ocean's depths to the conquest of land, and scrambling creatures covering the surface of our planet. We'll see the largest creatures ever to roam the earth as well as those who evolved to prey upon their majestic forms.

Our own chapter begins with the spark of creativity that has infused humanity since the earliest days. We'll delve into our fascination with the world before us. Soar with a ceaseless desire to explore every vista. We will find conflict and we will celebrate beauty. Then, we will turn outward to the stars, to which we seem so intent on returning.

The Fifth Edition of the Mini Museum is a massive collection, our most ambitious to date. We are excited to continue the journey together, sharing the love of science and history with the world!

The complete Fifth Edition collection contains 34 unique specimens. This makes it the largest single grand collection we've ever made. Details on each specimen appear further down the page!

Small, Large, and Touch Versions Plus Crowdfunding Backer Exclusive Specimens!

The Large and Touch versions of the Fifth Edition will include all 34 specimens, and the Small will contain the 12 selected specimens.
Large Acrylic (5x4x1 Inches)

Touch (14x7 Classic, Glass-Topped Riker Case with accessible specimens)

Small Acrylic (4x3x1 Inches)

The chart below shows all of the specimens in the Fifth Edition and in which version they appear:

Packaging and Companion Guide Book

As with past collections, every version of the Fifth Edition will arrive with its own special packaging, a Certificate of Authenticity, and the Fifth Edition Companion Guide.

The Small and Large versions are encased in lucite acrylic. They will arrive in a handsome Display Box protected by a custom Microfiber Pouch.

The Fifth Edition Acrylic versions (Large and Small) will feature a gold microfiber pouch, just like this!

Please Note: The Display Box design for the Fifth Edition will be revealed in a future project update along with the design of the MM5 T-Shirt.

The Touch version of the Fifth Edition will arrive in a classic Riker display box. The specimens will be accessible in small acrylic jars as pictured below. The glass-topped Riker display box measures 14x7x1".

Closeup of a Companion Guide with specimens from the Touch version of the Fifth Edition

The Companion Guide is a 160-page, hardbound book that serves as a starting point for learning more about the specimens in the collection. The book includes details about our process and additional references so you can continue exploring on your own! The guide will contain multiple pages of research, photography, and illustrations for each specimen, along with some behind-the-scenes details of the MM5 production process.

Early draft page spreads from the Companion Guide featuring Amelia Earhart

NOTE: Martian Dust Storm, Conquest of Land, Coelacanth, Amelia Earhart, and Cold War Espionage are exclusive bonuses to backers of the Large and Touch versions! Post-Campaign, we will produce classic, 29-specimen Large and Touch Mini Museums. This campaign is the only way to ensure you can collect the full MM5!

During this campaign, we are offering the opportunity to back the "Large," "Small," and "Touch" versions of the Fifth Edition. In addition, backers will get several campaign-exclusive perks for being early supporters of this edition.


Every backer of the Large and Touch sizes will receive a museum with unique numbering from the original run.


By backing this campaign at the Large or Touch level, your museum will contain the complete 34-specimen collection, including the campaign-exclusive specimens: Martian Dust Storm, Coelacanth, Conquest of Land, Amelia Earhart, and Cold War Espionage


Every backer's name will be included inside the Fifth Edition Mini Museum benefactor list.


Display Stands

The Mini Museum Illuminated LED Stands are returning! Backers on this campaign get the first chance to pre-order the new batch of Mini Museum LED stands, which are the perfect way to display your collection. These sleek stands were specially designed to hold the Large collection and come with built-in lighting and colored lenses to tint your museum to your liking. You can select them as an add-on for your pledge to give your Fifth Edition a snazzy look!

MM5 Large in the Illuminated LED Stand (Simulated) - This Stand works with ALL Large Mini Museums!

Pins & Stickers

As a first for a Mini Museum campaign, we're producing special artwork based on the specimens which will be available in the form of pins and stickers. Currently, we have 3 designs below.

As we continue with the campaign, we'll unlock new pin designs based on specimens to share too. We're working with other guest artists in the crowdfunding world to help! Look out for designs from Liz Kaneda (The Snarky Company), Rachel Ruck (Corviforms), Jason Furie, Carly K (Mythic Management LLC), & Carrie Alyson (Aspenhearted). Check out all their projects and websites for a look at the spectacular art coming your way!

The specimens behind these designs will be voted on by you, the backers! We'll reveal them as soon as they've been decided and designed!

At $500,000
, we are fully funded, but there's still more we can do to make MM5 amazing! As the campaign gathers more funding, we'll be able to add additional bonuses to make the Fifth Edition even better, expand add-on rewards, and even unlock new projects.

At the $600,000 funding mark, we'll be able to design and release 3 new pins based on specimens in MM5. The specimens chosen will be voted on by our backers!

At the $650,000 funding mark, we'll unlock an Audiobook Edition of the Fifth Edition's Companion Guide. This will offer a listenable version of the guided tour of your collection and will be a free reward for all pledges.

At the $700,000 funding mark, we'll take a 3D scan of a Coelacanth fossil to create a custom, laser-etched cutting board design of the fossil fish! Can you already see the similarities?


These cutting boards will be unlocked as a new add-on once we hit this funding goal.

At the $800,000 funding mark, we'll be able to create another 3 new pins based on backer vote!

At the $900,000 funding mark, we'll be able to design a new poster of the evolutionary timeline of the Tyrannosaurus rex. This poster will include art of several species and information about how the Tyrannosaurid family changed. It will be unlocked as a new add-on once we hit this funding goal!

At the $1,000,000 funding mark, we'll unlock the ultimate Golden Coelacanth pin. To tell the truth, we've fallen in love with this living fossil and we're going to make a few pins for ourselves either way — but if we hit this funding goal, we'll be able to produce a free pin to add to every physical backer's pledge. If unlocked, it will only ever be available to backers of this campaign. It is a Fifth Edition exclusive!

Shipping for backers in the US will cost $10 upon fulfillment of the project. For backers in Canada, Australia, and Europe it will be $20, and $30 for all other locations.

This price will only be available during the crowdfunding campaign and will only apply to the rewards you are backing during the campaign. Payment for shipment will be collected post-campaign.

Important Information for Backers Outside the United States

As with past projects, the shipping price for your reward only includes the cost of shipping. The price does not include sales tax/VAT or any duties/customs fees that may apply.


The Fifth Edition campaign will run from May 5th to June 2nd. Surveys for pledges will then go out in June for backers to complete shipping and select add-ons. We hope to have production of museums, books, and all the other pieces that make a Mini Museum special completed and checked in early October to have fulfillment begin at the start of November!

With each Edition, we set aside a number of Mini Museums for distribution to schools, libraries, and other locations that work with children. We then add in more copies as production gets underway. We cover all costs in this program, even shipping to places around the world.

MM1 at the Library!

For the Fifth Edition, we're adding even more "Community Copies" for distribution to educators and those who work with children. Not only that, but we're tying that number DIRECTLY to the number of pledges we receive on this campaign so the Mini Museum Community can see the impact of their generosity directly.

The formula for MM5 will be One (1) community copy for every Thirty (30) Large Mini Museum pledges.

Educators who are interested in getting in on these copies can register here on the campaign by backing the Educator pool for $1. This will put you first in line to receive a Community Copy when they are released later this year. Backing this tier will also unlock a digital copy of our Fifth Edition companion guide, along with any other exclusive digital rewards we create during the campaign.

Once the campaign ends, we'll begin the process of verifying credentials so make sure the Education Community Copies are going to the right home!
Want to help raise this number? Spread the word about the campaign online or with friends and family! You can also add an Educator Hero add-on to your pledge to directly add a copy to the pool!


Want to help us take this campaign to the next level? Awesome! Let us reward you for all your hard work!

Each week, we'll be releasing a new Community Challenge as a part of the campaign. For each challenge you complete, we'll add a bonus FREE sticker of your choice to your pledge! If you complete all four Community Challenges, you'll receive a special SECRET BONUS sticker design.

Complete free challenges and get free stickers. What's better than that?
What could the secret sticker be?

This first week is easy — Share the campaign on Twitter and let the world know how excited you are for the next edition of the Mini Museum!

Log in to your Backerkit account and click here to start the challenge and get your sticker for this week!

Since 2014, we've delivered tens of thousands of Mini Museums to more than 120 countries worldwide, so we have a good handle on the risks associated with the project. Still, creating a Mini Museum is a highly complex process.

While each specimen in the Mini Museum has its unique challenges, and the scale of the project may lead to unexpected delays. It's also important to note that producing a single Edition of the Mini Museum involves the assistance of many outside vendors and partners. We have great relationships with our partners, but the post-pandemic world has introduced many new challenges.

We've taken every step possible to mitigate potential issues while always focusing on the end product's quality. As with past projects, we plan to provide detailed and timely project updates to keep backers advised, informed, educated, and at times entertained.

The last few years have been uncertain for everyone, but with the support and excitement of our backer community we've been able to return with what is shaping up to be our greatest edition ever.

If you're a long time member — thank you for everything. If you're new to this project, we hope you'll find out why people love the Mini Museum so much! Our hope with the Fifth Edition is to reach greater heights than ever before and together we know we can.

01 - STELLAR HEART (Muonionalusta Octahedrite c. 4,565,300,000 Years Old)

“A little less than five billion years ago, something happened. A cloud of interstellar gas and dust… collapsed and condensed to form the early solar system. The central mass in the cloud contracted under its own gravity and heated, until temperatures became so high that thermonuclear reactions were initiated and the early sun was born.” Carl Sagan, intro to “New Solar System”

Nearly 4.6 billion years ago, the Sun sparked to life, one small glow in a swirling nebula of gas and dust that would form our solar system. The sudden appearance of light and heat began to change this nebula’s composition, dragging some particles into the fledgling star, smashing others against each other, forming random planetoids and asteroids. This dramatic event marked a new step in the endless cycle of gravitational collapse and rebirth, and the beginning of a story that would ultimately lead to life on Earth.

As the pre-solar nebula dissipated, heavy matter, created in the hearts of dying stars elsewhere in the galaxy, accreted into primitive bodies known as planetesimals. At the heart of these small bodies, iron and nickel matrices cooled rapidly creating exquisite constellations of crystallization known as Widmanstätten patterns. These unique formations require specialized cooling that can't be found on Earth and are signs of the metals’ origin in the void.

Only eight of these planetesimals formed into full planets. The rest have been sailing through the solar system for billions of years. Occasionally, some crash down to Earth as meteorites, where they teach us about the cycles of our universe.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a collection of fragments from the Muonionalusta meteorite. This iron meteorite landed on Earth nearly 1,000,000 years ago and is the earliest known of its kind. It serves as a time capsule from the birth of the solar system and remnant of distant supernovae lost to time.


“The planet had become covered with yellow clouds, and presented a cream colour similar to that of Jupiter” ~ E. M. Antoniadi describing the martian dust storm of 1924.

On November 13, 1971, NASA spacecraft Mariner 9 entered orbit around Mars, making history as the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. What it found was something very unexpected: the planet was covered in a globe-spanning dust storm that completely shrouded the surface. It was the largest of its kind we had ever seen, easily dwarfing even the biggest of Earth sandstorms and the total planet coverage delayed Mariner 9's first satellite images for months.

Despite their immense reach, Martian dust storms are not as violent as we might imagine. The low atmospheric pressure limits wind speeds to around 60 mph, which is less than an Earth hurricane. However, since Mars lacks moisture, dust particles on the surface stay loose and dry, making them quite easy to lift and swirl. Without oceans to serve as dust sinks, particles have been accumulating on the surface for millions of years. 

"Side-by-side movies shows how the 2018 global dust storm enveloped the Red Planet, courtesy of the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This global dust storm caused NASA's Opportunity rover to lose contact with Earth. The view from May shows Valles Marineris chasms (left), Meridiani center, an autumn dust storm in Acidalia (top) and the early spring south polar cap (bottom). The view from July shows the same regions, but most of the surface was obscured by the planet-encircling dust cloud and haze." NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This combination makes for weather conditions unlike anything on Earth: massive storms of small particles that shuffle the layers of sediment on Mars and blot out the sun. The planet-wide storms can easily last for weeks and months, covering the entire surface of Mars with a sheet of shifting haze.

The Martian Dust Storm specimen encapsulates a piece of this incredible natural phenomenon. Infused with the dust of Martian meteorite NWA 7397, this specimen offers a tangible connection to Martian basaltic materials that make up these vast storms. It reminds us of the incredible and even dangerous phenomenon that awaits future explorers to the Red Planet.

03 - STARRY NIGHT (Lunar Meteorite NWA 13951)

“Once I finally stepped on the moon, no matter what was to come of the next three days - or the rest of my life - nobody could take those steps from me. People ask how long will they be there, and I say forever, however long forever is.” ~ Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 Mission Commander

When humans first set foot on the Moon nearly 60 years ago, it was our first visit to our lunar neighbor. As we'd find out, the Moon had already been visiting us for millennia. It sends us fiery gifts from the sky, lunar meteorites which light up the night horizon like shooting stars.

Most meteorites that fall to Earth are the remnants of planetoids from the early solar system. However, a small number originate not from asteroids, but from the lunar surface. These lunar meteorites form out of asteroid impacts on the Moon’s face, which eject lunar material into outer space that later falls to Earth.

This specimen is a sample of lunar meteorite NWA 13951, first identified in Mauritania in 2021. 13951 is a lunar feldspathic breccia, suggesting its origin point lies somewhere in the highlands, an area unexplored by the Apollo missions and thus ripe for research. 

NWA 13951 is also known as the "Starry Night" meteorite. When cut open to examine its composition, it was found that the material exhibited a unique dark matrix with beautiful gray and white grains of plagioclase, pyroxene, and olivine along with tiny iron-nickel inclusions. These mineral patterns call to mind an image of a star-filled night sky, reminding us of its incredible origin.

04 - MAGMA OCEAN (Isua Greenstone, 3,600,000,000 Years Old)

“...along the banks / Of four infernal rivers, that disgorge / Into the burning lake their baleful streams, / Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate; / Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep” ~ John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)

In the darkness of space, a ball of hot fire and magmatic oceans burns endlessly. This is our home, Earth. It is long before we will ever walk its surface, before the green continents we know have formed, even before its blue oceans have settled. There is only flame and stone.

Where did this fire go? It became the ground. Over billions of years, the bubbling seas of lava cooled into the continental crust covering the planet. Erosion, tectonics, and time have hidden many of the original traces of this period, but we can still find them if we dig deep enough. Like the mythologies of old, the prehistoric, hellish world can still be found underground in places like the Isua Greenstone Belt in Greenland, where we find chemical signs of the Archaean magma oceans.

Through these formations, we can speculate on this foundational era in Earth’s history. The Isua Belt is a unique resource, as much of the original material from the Archaean has been remelted and lost. 

Contained within these rocks are crystals that formed as the magma ocean cooled into the terrestrial surface, meaning they predate plate tectonics. The specimen in the Mini Museum is a geologic sample from the Isua Magma Ocean, which is dated to the Archaean eon over 3,600,000,000 years ago. It is from the grains of this deposit that every stone, mountain, and continent first began.

05 - CAULDRON OF LIFE (Deep Sea Hydro-Thermal Vents, 2,711,000,000 Years Old)

“...probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed.” ~ Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)

There are many places on Earth that we find strange and dangerous, but to some life forms even the most inhospitable environment is home. At the bottom of the ocean, pillars of superheated sulfur belch from deep sea hydrothermal vents, supporting a tiny ecosystem that is perfectly suited to life along the ocean floor.

These geysers’ lifeforms have adapted to use the basic elemental compounds and heat of the vents’ clouds to survive. For billions of years, single-celled organisms have thrived in colonies around these geysers and may even have been some of the earliest ancestors of life on our planet.

This specimen is a geologic fragment from an ancient deep sea vent from Kidd Creek Mine in Ontario, Canada. This location is home to a massive sulfide ore deposit which formed 2,715,000,0000 years ago in the Archean Eon from hydrothermal venting. Continued geothermal heating supports a sealed biosphere of bacteria to this day which mirrors the ancient hydrothermal colonies from the ocean floor.

Studies at Kidd Creek also provide a potential model for studying such vents on other planets or moons, and any basic alien lifeforms they may harbor. It's theorized that on the Jovian moon Europa, hydrothermal vents like this may be a warm spot in the icy ocean where life can thrive. The specimen was donated by Glencore Canada's Kidd Operations. We are greatly indebted to Chief Geologist Peter Calloway's assistance in procuring this specimen.

06 - ROUGH RUBY (500,000,000 Years Old)

"They brought me rubies from the mine,/And held them to the sun;/I said, they are drops of frozen wine/From Eden's vats that run." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rubies

Deep within the crust of the Earth, rocks grind and heat against each other as the planet shifts its weight. Over millions of years, the crystal and chemical structures of these rocks change under the pressure, forming something new. Certain aluminum-rich rocks can metamorphosize into ultrahard corundum, but with the inclusion of certain impurities this mineral crystallizes into a brilliant red ruby.

Of the five cardinal gemstones, ruby holds a special place in the quintet. It is rarer, more durable, and more expensive than a comparable diamond. These precious stones have been valued throughout history. Often mined in Asia, they traveled with other goods along the Silk Road, spreading their glamor far and wide. More recently in 2015, the 25.5 carat Sunrise Ruby sold for $30,300,000 USD, making it the world's most expensive colored gemstone. 

Scientists have found many uses for ruby. It was a synthetic ruby that powered the first laser built in 1960. They also aid geologists looking to study the subterranean forces working below our feet. Rubies form out of the mineral corundum, a crystallized form of the aluminum oxide. Formation of corundum is linked to the mountain range orogenies in the Himalayas and Africa.  The specimen in the Mini Museum is a rough ruby fragment from the latter event, found in Mozambique.

07 - CONQUEST OF LAND (First Land Plants, 433,000,000 Years Old)

“Nature does not make any leaps. All plants show an affinity with those around them, according to their geographical location.” ~ Carl Linnaeus, Philosophia Botanica (1751)

At the end of the Ordovician Period, strange new life forms had managed to bring themselves out of the ocean and onto solid land for the first time in history. These early plants were alien things that had adapted to survive in the harsh environment of the Earth's surface. They had no leaves or roots, but they spread quickly and completely across the prehistoric landforms until they covered them all. Then, they reached for the Sun.

These new plants fought for dominance not of food, but of sunlight. New species appeared with taller forms to grow above their competitors. Leaf-like structures and vascular systems helped them gather even more energy. By the end of the Devonian, swamps and forests reached across the landscape like a dreamy painting of a strange dimension.

The appearance of terrestrial plants had an astronomical impact on the global environment. Before their arrival on land, the planet's atmosphere was hot and full of carbon. The hunger of evolution fed off this carbon dioxide and brought it down into the ground, where plants were even creating new soils for their proto-roots to take hold. These drastic changes brought devastation to marine life which had adapted for a different atmosphere, contributing to the Late Devonian extinction. If you wanted to live on Earth, you had to play by the plants' rules. The world before the green conquest of land was no more.

In a way, this was an example of terraforming. The early efforts by these members of the Plantae kingdom have firmly established them as the true movers and shakers of our ecosystem. 

This specimen is a fragment of compressed siltstone matrix containing fossil remains of Cooksonia sp. and other pioneering terrestrial plants. It was recovered from the Kielce Fold Zone in the southern Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains of Poland. Dating to the juncture of the Ordvician and Silurian Periods, this region was home to a smooth, almost tropical shoreline at the edge of a shallow sea. It was here, some 445,000,000 years ago, that life began the irreversible climb onto land that would change the planet.

08 - DUNKLEOSTEUS (Placoderm Skull, 358,000,000 Years Old)

“Lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes” ~ Robert Shaw as Quint in Jaws (1975)

For millions of years, the true monster of the sea was not the quick and agile shark or a frightening squid, but a living tank that crushed its prey with jaws like a bear trap. With a huge, hinged mouth, this massive fish chased down prehistoric ammonites and cracked their shells open with ease. There was no defense against an apex predator like this.

Sporting externalized plates of bone armor, ultra powerful jaws, and the ability to create a suction zone to drag prey down its mouth, the Dunkleosteus was a true aquatic predator. These creatures were part of the class called Placodermi, bony fish which had articulated plates across their bodies like suits of armor. Dunkleosteus and its relatives first appeared in the Devonian Period, which made them one of the earliest vertebrates to have hinged jaws, a monumental tool in the evolutionary arms race that put them at the top of the food chain.

At the front of its jaws, Dunkleosteus had a pair of razor sharp bony blades. Though they served the same purpose, they were not teeth, but rather an extension of the animal's skeleton that could shred prey like scissors. The bite force on the edge of one of these plates was over 5,300 newtons. That's well over the 4,000 newtons it takes to crack through human bone, meaning this fish was built to crush shells from prey like ammonites or even other placoderms.

Dunkleosteus fossils are immediately identifiable from the remains of their armor: a complex puzzle set of interlocking pieces that protected the animal from other underwater predators. With this extreme armor and their outrageous bite force, the Dunkleosteus was a near unstoppable apex predator. The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a 358,000,000 year old Dunkleosteus skull recovered from Famennian strata in Morocco. Similar fossils from different species have been located in related formations around the world, including sites in North America and Europe.

09 - PERMIAN BONE (286,000,000 Years Old)

Long before the first dinosaur ever hatched, the planet was populated with a vast array of even stranger creatures. Vertebrates were growing into an incredible menagerie of new evolutionary forms, with gliding animals, powerful beasts, and the rise of egg laying creatures. It was the brilliant era of life we call the Permian.

This period began around 250 million years ago after the end of the Carboniferous Period. The swamps of former ages were gradually replaced with a more arid, desert-like climate, with the supercontinent Pangea dominated by two groups: synapsids and sauropsids. They were some of the first terrestrial vertebrates to walk on land and would eventually evolve into the modern mammalian and reptilian groups respectively. 

With many animals living deep within Pangea and away from the oceans, they were subject to extreme weather and temperature changes. The synapsids' ability to thermoregulate was perfectly suited to the challenges of the surface and its climate fluctuations. Creatures of all shapes and sizes could be found living during this period, like the sail-backed Dimetrodon and the tusked Dicynodonts to tiny tetrapods. As we're learning from the fossil record, the ecosystem here was just as diverse and vibrant as any other.

The specimen in this Mini Museum is a tiny fossilized bone from a small tetrapod found in the Richards Spur Quarry near Lawton, Oklahoma. This is a rich deposit for vertebrate fossils from the Permian period, especially ancient amphibians like Pasawioops and Doleserpeton. The latter of these two genera maintained a rounded skull with large eyes and ears, anticipating the evolutionary changes of lissamphibians, or modern amphibians.

10 - COELACANTH ("Living Fossil", 240,000,000 Years Old)

“I saw a blue fin, and pushing off the fish, the most beautiful fish I had ever seen was revealed.” -Marjorie Courtenary-Latimer, 1938

In the depths of a Devonian sea, a fish hangs vertically in the darkness. With the majority of its bone mass concentrated in the skull, it is an unusual looking creature. Drifting slowly through the water, this otherwise motionless hunter uses an electroreceptive organ to scan the seabed for its next meal.

As strange as this passive feeding technique may seem, the strategy was so successful that it played out across successive generations, practically unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. Yet, just as the Cretaceous Period came to its cataclysmic end, this unique fish, known as a Coelacanth, found itself resigned to the oblivion of extinction like so many other creatures.

Or so we thought...

In 1938, museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer was awestruck by the catch of a South African fisherman. She had gotten a call about an unusual creature and found an incredible blue fish that she couldn't identify. Courtenay-Latimer sent off sketches to an ichthyologist friend, who took one look at it and determined it was a modern specimen of the ancient coelacanth fossil.

Since then, we've come to learn that these shy hunters not only still exist but retain their form from millions of years ago. From the delicate fins, to the intricate scales, each detail tells a story of resilience and survival.  Many secrets of the coelacanth still remain to be fully uncovered but one thing is for certain: life finds a way, even in the most unexpected of places.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a fossilized coelacanth recovered from the Middle Sankamena Formation in Madagascar. This formation dates to the early Triassic, over 250 million years ago


“The new specimen is as long or longer than any skull of Tyrannosaurus rex, which has always been referred to as the largest known terrestrial carnivore.” ~ Philip J. Currie

Deadly, gigantic, and hungry, the Carcharodontosaurus was one of the most fearsome predators of the mid-Cretaceous. This massive theropod is sometimes nicknamed “The Moroccan T. Rex,” though it was actually related to the even larger Giganotosaurus. Carcharodontosaurus is estimated to have grown as large as 12.5 meters (44 ft) long with a weight of 16 tons.

Fossils from Carcharodontosaurus were first discovered in 1924, when two teeth were found in Algeria. Other fossils were uncovered in the region but ended up destroyed due to fighting from World War II. In 1995, parts of a new skull were uncovered in Morocco, which put estimates to the creature’s head at almost 1.5 meters (5 ft) long.

Carcharodontosaurus is best known for its terrifying serrated teeth, useful tools for dominating the Kem Kem river delta. These teeth have been found to be up to 15 centimeters (6 in) long and were perfect for ripping and tearing strips of flesh from prey. The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a fossilized Carcharodontosaurus tooth from the Kem Kem Formation in Morocco. It is dated to be about 90,000,000 years old.


“A small number of closely related genera of large theropodous saurischians is known to have existed during late Cretaceous time in North America and Central Asia. These reptiles, which may be termed tyrannosaurs, are noteworthy for their large size (one form attained a length of 47 feet, perhaps weighing over tons in life) and for their extreme adaptation to a carnivorous mode of existence.” ~ Dale Russell “Tyrannosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of western Canada” (1970)

How do we get to Tyrannosaurus rex? By the end of the Cretaceous, the Tyrannosaurid family had become the apex predators of the dinosaur world, but where did these carnivores come from?

Weighing 2.5 metric tons (5,500lb) and measuring over 8 meters (25ft) in length, Daspletosaurus was an early evolutionary foray into what would ultimately become the goliath Tyrannosaurus. The fossil record shows this creature first appeared 77 million years ago in the coastal floodplains around the Western Interior Seaway, a prehistoric body of water that once connected the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Daspletosaurus carried the hallmarks of its fellow Tyrannosaurids, with a huge set of jaws and small two-fingered claws. However, its arms were a fair bit longer in proportion to its body, giving it an advantage when scavenging over fallen prey and tearing flesh with its claws.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a Daspletosaurus leg bone from Montana’s Two Medicine Formation. The study of Daspletosaurus specimens at this site has been foundational to understanding the evolutionary chain of the wider Tyrannosaurid family, especially regarding their feeding habits. In 2001, a partial Daspletosaurus skeleton was found containing the remains of a Hadrosaur, indicating it preyed on large herbivores. Scars found on some Daspletosaurus fossils seem to have been inflicted by others of its own kind, suggesting the dinosaurs engaged in violent feeding frenzies on prey that could even turn cannibalistic.

13 - OVIRAPTOR (Caenagnathid Bone)

"We jokingly call this thing the ‘Chicken from Hell,’ and I think that’s pretty appropriate... in almost every way, they’re even weirder than we imagined." ~ Dr. Matthew Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh

When you discover a new dinosaur, first impressions can be everything. The Cretaceous Oviraptor was originally found alongside a nest of fossilized eggs by paleontologist Henry Osborn. Given the proximity of its skull to the eggs, Obsorn assumed the creature was preying upon the nest and named it "egg thief." 

The true story of this creature is much more poignant. The fossils we thought showed predation were actually told the story of a mother and her young. These eggs belonged to the Oviraptor holotype — she was nesting with them up into her final moments of life.

The oviraptor's brooding posture mirrored those of modern birds, crouching over the nest and protecting it with its forelimbs. This discovery suggests the behavior evolved far earlier than originally thought, beginning with the non-avian Theropod clade. It's also a good reminder that dinosaurs were not movie monsters, but living animals with instincts to protect and care for their young even at the detriment of their own health. There's always more than meets the eye when it comes to the dinosaurs.

This specimen comes from two different Oviraptor fossils found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana which dates to the end of the Mesozoic around 66,000,000 years ago. It is a member of the Caenagnathidae family, a subgroup of oviraptorosaurs with beak-like jaws and bony crests. These dinosaurs ranged in size from that of a modern day turkey to larger specimens growing up to 8 meters (26 feet) long.

14 - ALAMOSAURUS (Titanosaur Bone)

"Cretaceous titanosauriforms flourished, enjoying a near-global distribution and attaining previously unrivalled body masses." ~ Dr. Denver W. Fowler & Dr. Robert M. Sullivan Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56, December 2011

In the final years of the dinosaur age, the ground shook under the weight of a giant. You would hear this creature approach before you saw it, but once you knew it was coming there was only one place to look: up. It was the Alamosaurus, the last of the great sauropods and the largest dinosaur ever discovered in North America. With a length of 26 meters (85 feet) and a set of spiky bone plates to act as armor, Alamosaurus was truly a sight to behold. 

Alamosaurus was the only Titanosaur that lived in North America, dominating the delta ecosystems that it lived in. Alamosaurus has been found along the junction between the Aguja and Javelina formations in West Texas, where it lived with other gigantic dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus and the Quetzalcoatlus. Here, Alamosaurus straddled the line between these two distinct ecosystems, using its long neck to devour the tops of the conifers and angiosperm trees, making its way through brackish swamps along the Cretaceous Seaway, to more distant freshwater river systems.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fossil fragment of an Alamosaurus sanjuanensis, the only known species of the genus, found in the Javelina Formation of West Texas. This Cretaceous era deposit is a lesser-known sister site to the Hell Creek Formation further north, but offers an exciting new world of dinosaurs to discover. Within its fossil beds are obscure creatures, further expanding our understanding of what the dinosaur era's end looked like.


“Although depictions of the woolly rhinoceros are less numerous than those of the woolly mammoth, the appearance of the animal was nevertheless very clearly recorded by the Paleolithic artists.” ~ Antony John Sutcliffe, "On the Track of the Ice Age Mammals"

Before humans dominated the Earth, we shared the planet with towering megafauna. Among these magnificent beasts was the Woolly Rhinoceros. With massive bodies covered in thick hair, humped shoulders to carry their heavy heads, and titanic horns which made them tower over the expansive steppe landscapes, they were a true sight to behold in the Pleistocene tundra.

Coelodonta antiquitatis, the scientific name of the Woolly Rhino, emerged in Europe and Asia 3.6 million years ago, where their long hair and heavy fat protected them from the permafrost climate. These animals were huge, comparable in size to the modern white rhino. They could reach up to 3.5 meters (12 ft) in length and over 2 and a half tons (6,000 lb), making them a tank of a creature. Most impressive was their front horn, a massive keratin formation over 4 feet long. These creatures survived until the end of the Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, when the wavering ice age and overhunting by humans wiped out the animals.

Like other Pleistocene megafauna, the Woolly Rhinoceros’s migrations across Eurasia can be traced alongside the pulses of the last ice age. Within its horn, contrasting colored rings indicate seasonal shifts in the rhinoceros’s diet between warm and cold months. 

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fossilized Woolly Rhinoceros bone recovered from the North Sea, which once was a tundra between the British Isle and continental Europe before it flooded 8,000 years ago. This prehistoric landmass is referred to as Doggerland and was home to all kinds of Pleistocene megafauna like Woolly Mammoths and even humans crossing from the mainland to the Isles.

16 - GLYPTODON (Osteoderm Scute)

“In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osseous armour of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside of which, when the earth was removed, was like a great cauldron.” ~ Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)

Sometimes the process of evolution endows a species with subtle adaptations to suit its environment. Other times, it can be a little more blunt. The Glyptodon is an example of the latter, its body encased within a thick shell of protective armor, with a tail covered in dermal rings for use as a weapon. Just taking a look at the animal's fossil, you can immediately tell what its body was used for.

The Glyptodon was a Pleistocene era mammal related to today’s armadillos. These creatures were much larger though, with some of them growing to the size of a small car. Glyptodon’s carapace was made up of over 1,000 rigid osteoderm plates, which locked around them like a suit of natural armor. 

Early humans took advantage of this armor and may have been a leading cause in Glyptodon’s extinction 10,000 years ago — they used their tools and their wits to outsmart the creature, rendering the heavy armor useless against craftier opponents. There is evidence that overhunting may have led to their extinction, as humans found that the Glyptodon's carapace was a useful shelter against harsh weather. This specimen is a section of a 20,000 year old Glyptodon osteoderm fossil found in the Pleistocene era deposits of northern Florida.

17 - DARWIN GLASS (Tektite, c. 816,000 Years Old)

“Sir Thomas Mitchell has given me what at first appears to be the half of a much flattened oval of obsidian… filled with finely-cellular black lava.” Darwin, “Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of the HMS Beagle"

Hidden within the dense forest of the Western Tasmanian wilderness lies the remnant of a cataclysmic encounter between our planet and an extraterrestrial object. Known as Darwin Crater, this impact structure was formed after a massive airburst explosion roughly 816,000 years ago, leaving behind a rimless depression with a diameter of 1.2 km. The intense heat and energy melted airborne debris, creating a strewn field of meteoritic glass called tektites that reaches out for another 400 square kilometers into the surrounding countryside.

Darwin Glass is unique in its composition, consisting of nearly 98% silica, and is highly valued for its resistance to weathering and its clarity. The color of the recovered fragments indicates the presence of minerals such as olivine, orthopyroxene, and rare earth elements. The material has been valued since prehistory, as it has been found over 550 kilometers (340 mi) away across the Bass Strait in Australia, suggesting it traveled along early trade routes.

The material was highly valued by the Aboriginal Tasmanians for its sharpness and was likely used for cutting implements and tools, as well as for ritual practices. They called it mana — "magic" — a razor sharp stone filled with crystalline bubbles that glowed in the light of the sun. The discovery and use of Darwin Glass by the Aboriginal Tasmanians mirrors the use of similar caches of meteoritic glass elsewhere in the world, and the material continues to play an important role in the cultural and economic history of the region.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a Darwin Glass tektite, formed during the impact event. The study of tektites like Darwin Glass provides valuable insights into the geological and cultural history of our planet.


“The print of the hand says, ‘This is my mark. This is man.’” - Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

The human handprint is a simple symbol. It is a representation of us — the first tool a human being learns to use to make their mark on the world. Some of these marks have lasted for tens of thousands of years. Looking at prehistoric murals that still stand on cave walls, we see the echoes of people who made their everlasting mark with a handful of red pigment. Stones and fire helped our ancestors survive, but ochre made them immortal.

Once you start to look, you will find this substance everywhere. Red ochre was a ubiquitous piece of early human life. It has been found at paleolithic sites in Australia, Africa, Spain, France, North and South America, the Mediterranean, and the British Isles. Beyond cave art, the pigment was applied for an extraordinary amount of different purposes: sun protection, insect repellant, treating animal hides, body paint, and even as a medicinal salve. Recent research has found that human production of ochre is far older than we once thought, stretching back 300,000 years.

The substance is a mix of oxidized hematite as a pigment and various oils to a simple but effective paint. Evidence suggests that the pigment was also part of a 70,000-year-old adhesive. What's interesting about this is that ochre itself is not adhesive — the glue recipe required a variety of ingredients and a complex, multistep process. Anthropologists theorize that language was needed to train others in making the glue, so the presence of ochre adhesives may indicate the ages of complex cultures in the history of humankind. 

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a dusting of red ochre encased in acrylic, arranged to look like a stroke of pigment against a cave wall. The behaviors that ochre illuminates paints a new picture of Paleolithic culture. Societies were more than just hunter-gatherer groups fighting to survive; there were complex ideas, languages, shared goals, communities, and cooperation. It seems as though humans back then had a lot in common with humans today, even more so than we may have imagined before.

19 - EARLY MODERN HUMANS (Stone Tool Core, c. 35,000 Years Old)

Between modern day humans and our closest hominid cousins is a vast gulf of time, longer than every human civilization combined. However, all of those prehistoric ancestors still fall within the name Homo sapien. They originated over 50,000 years ago — the earliest modern human population discovered to live in prehistory and a tether to our ancient past.

Early modern humans had language, religion, and art. Many of these aspects of their lives remain mysterious as they leave little trace in the fossil record, but the evidence we have found shows they were likely quite a bit like us. However, we can track their toolmaking quite well, making it an invaluable resource for charting human evolution. 

Throughout the early modern human period, we've found a technological progression from simple rocks to elaborate stone tool industries. With a lack of information on artistic culture, archaeologists divide groups by the tool making innovations and techniques of each group. These groups include the Oldowan, Acheulean, Mousterian, and Aurignacian industries found across Africa and Eurasia, as well as many others.

This specimen in the Mini Museum is a lithic core from France’s Bergerac region, dated to the Aurignacian industry 35,000 years ago. Cores like this are a base rock that has had flakes knapped off with a rudimentary hammer, the flakes are then used for basic stone tools. This flint-knapping technique allows some insight into how these Upper-Paleolithic cultures functioned: sophisticated language would be needed to explain the technique, and some degree of hierarchy would exist to teach the method to a younger toolmaker.

20 - LOST CIVILIZATION (Luristan Sword, c. 1000 BCE)

In 1928, a farmer in Iran’s Luristan province made a strange discovery: a handful of bronze sculptures buried in the dirt on his land. His findings set off a tidal wave of interest in these mysterious artifacts, with many traders flocking to Luristan to join the search. In spite of the interest paid to Luristan bronze, little remains known of the people who created it.

What we do know from these excavations is that the Luristan bronze pieces were made by nomadic tribes around 3,000 to 2,700 years ago. The pieces include small swords, horse harness rings, and decorative standards. This leads us to understand them as using horses for travel and carrying light items. Another interesting note of Luristan bronze pieces is the appearance of the "Master of Animals" motif, a common symbol in ancient civilizations depicting a human grasping two beasts. Archaeologists theorize that this shows the importance of hunting and domestication within the society.

This specimen is a piece of a damaged bronze sword, one of many found among the Luristan pieces. Exact dating of individual bronze pieces has been a challenge, as many of the amateur excavators damaged the soil stratigraphy which archaeologists use to estimate age. These mysterious pieces continue to puzzle us to this day and their exact origins will likely remain a mystery.

21 - ROMAN SIEGE ENGINES (Ballista Shot, c. 300 CE)

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire commanded much of the known world, ruling over the Mediterranean with brilliant military tactics and advanced technology. The catapult was the premiere siege weapon of its time, capable of launching a projectile directly into an enemy’s fortifications. These missiles could be anything from simple boulders, arrows, or even crude explosives. 

Catapults rely on torsion to build tension in a rope assembly, using the stored energy to fling the projectile. It was a marvel of engineering for its time, harnessing the power of physics to create a destructive force capable of bringing down the sturdiest stone walls.
Evidence shows the Romans began using catapults during the Republic period, around 200 BCE. Its use continued into the Byzantine Empire, whose catapults were outfitted to fling Greek fire at enemy ships.

The most fearsome of the catapults was the polybolos, a repeating catapult that used a roller chain to fire multiple projectiles without stopping to reload. With such technologies, Rome held sway across multiple continents, able to surmount any obstacle in their path. The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a Roman catapult shot acquired at auction. The material dates to the 3rd century CE and is made of a thick, heavy stone. These spheres were loaded into catapults to fire upon enemy infantry and fortifications, destroying nearly anything in their way.

22 - OTTOMAN EMPIRE (Kemha Silk, c. 1500 CE)

A silkworm larva hatches from its miniscule egg, feasts on mulberry leaves, molts, eats, molts, eats, and finally grows enough to spin its cocoon out of beautiful silk. The sleeping worm has no way of knowing how far its silk will travel. Years later and hundreds of miles away, the cocoon threads of this creature are given as a gift to sultans and kings. Elsewhere, they're woven into incredibly intricate designs to dazzle the mind. The threads even find themselves tightening around the neck of a prince in a quiet but decisive assassination. 

At its peak in the late 17th century, the Ottoman Empire commanded a territory that stretched across the Mediterranean world. It was won through military conquest, but kept together by its vast trade networks. The denizens of this empire became reliant on goods that could only be obtained through foreign trade, with silk proving to be the most important resource. The Ottomans controlled trade between raw silk producers in Iran and China and their customers in Europe and used this control to become a powerful economic state.

The process of creating silk textiles is quite complex. Silkworms are raised until they are mature enough to spin a cocoon. The cocoon is then boiled and the individual threads of silk are spun together to form a thread. This raw material was sent through the empire to those who would combine it with dyes and thread it into beautiful patterns to further increase their value. Finally, they were prepared for purchase by wealthy buyers in and outside the empire.

From start to finish, the entire process requires delicate care and the rarity of such silk textiles made them incredibly sought after in the West. This specimen is a section of Ottoman silk from the 16th century, the height of the empire's power. It was held in a UK family's collection for 200 years, who trace their lineage to merchants that traded between historic Constantinople and London. 

23 - MONTICELLO (Home of Thomas Jefferson)

"Architecture is my delight, and putting up, and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements" - Thomas Jefferson

When Thomas Jefferson sat down to design his home, he did so with the mind of creating a new architectural style for a new nation. He combined his love of classical designs with the necessities of a growing country to create something unique, his estate of Monticello.

Design and construction on Monticello began in 1768, when Jefferson was just 26 years old. It was one of the first buildings designed in the Jeffersonian style, an American take on Europe’s Neoclassical architecture. It bears all the hallmarks of his later architectural work, with its portico entrance and symmetrical wings based around a central, octagonal room. It is also topped with an iconic white dome, a feature replicated in other buildings constructed or inspired by Jefferson such as the University of Virginia's Rotunda and the United States Capitol building.

However, for all its fanciful design, Monticello was first and foremost a plantation of enslaved laborers. Generations of black families constructed, maintained, and worked on Jefferson's plantation, though none ever lived within the walls of his home. For all of its active history, Monticello was a working plantation that produced tobacco using the forced labor of hundreds of people. Although he professed disgust at the idea of slavery, Jefferson freed only two of his slaves during his lifetime.

Jefferson was always working on redesigning his home, a task he never quite finished. After returning from his appointment as minister of France in 1789, Jefferson ordered a massive renovation to the neoclassical-style home, inspired by the Hôtel de Salm in Paris. When he died at home in 1826, the mansion topped out at 21 rooms and boasted such innovations as a dumbwaiter for food and drink and an interior weathervane that extended from the ceiling through the roof to track the wind direction from inside.

This specimen in the Mini Museum is a piece of white oak beam from Monticello. It was originally taken from the property and fashioned into a wooden gavel to be used during the contentious 1968 Democratic National Convention, making it witness to two flashpoints of history. The convention saw widespread anti-war protests that were violently suppressed by the Chicago Police Department on orders from Mayor Richard Daley.

24 - OLD IRONSIDES (USS Constitution, Original Hull)

“Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” -A US Navy Sailor at the Constitution's battle against the Guerriere.

After the costly Revolutionary War, the young United States disbanded the Continental Navy, believing it was no longer needed. Yet, a brief nine years later, the threat of Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa led to the Naval Act of 1794, authorizing the construction of six frigates to protect American merchants in the Mediterranean. Among this humble fleet was the USS Constitution, a heavy frigate that would go on to fight the French in the Quasi-War, North African states during the Barbary Wars, and the British during the War of 1812.

It was during the latter that the Constitution won its most famous battle when it destroyed the HMS Guerriere. The two ships had met a month before, when the Guerriere pursued the Constitution until the Americans secured a narrow escape. On August 19, the two ships met again off the coast of Nova Scotia, but this time the Constitution took the advantage. The rival British ship was wrecked in a hail of musket fire and cannonballs, then burned rather than taken back to port. During the battle, some of the British's cannonballs glanced off the side of the Constitution, much to the delight of the American sailors who nicknamed the ship Old Ironsides after the event.

While the battle itself was only a minor strategic success, it was a major morale boost to the fledgling Navy and the American public. The beloved ship was spared being scrapped after its commision was up, ultimately being converted into a floating museum in 1907. In 2012, the renovated ship sailed again to celebrate its two-hundredth anniversary of the Guerriere battle. 

This specimen in the Mini Museum is a piece of the original ship, collected during restoration efforts in the 1920s. By that time, the grand ship was severely dilapidated as several previous efforts to fund renovations had failed. Through a nationwide campaign, private funds were raised to save the Constitution, about 10 million dollars in today’s currency. The majority of the ship’s original material had to be replaced, making the Constitution a bonafide Ship of Theseus. The ship still stands today in Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard, the oldest floating ship in the world.

25 - AMELIA EARHART (Vega 5B, First Solo Transatlantic Crossing)

"I flew the Atlantic because I wanted to. If that be what they call ‘a woman’s reason,’ make the most of it. It isn’t, I think, a reason to be apologized for by man or woman..." ~Amelia Earhart

Just outside of Derry, Northern Ireland in 1932, a farmer watches as a bright red single-engine plane lands softly in the middle of his pasture. This is an impromptu landing — the plane has hit some trouble and ran out of fuel earlier than expected, but the excitement of the pilot is still palpable. Perhaps the farmer is surprised to see who exits the plane: the sole occupant is a woman. “Have you come far?” he asks. 

“From America,” the woman replies. Her name is Amelia Earhart, and she has just entered into the realm of legend.

Earhart’s journey with aviation began in 1920, on her first flight as a passenger. Her original ten-minute "hop" was with the celebrity airman Frank Hawks, a trick flier best known for his rural airshows. The experience was life-changing: “As soon as we left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly.” 

She soon took up flying lessons for herself, becoming a master aviator in her own right. Throughout her career, Earhart flew many record-breaking trips, but it was her first solo flight over the Atlantic that cemented a household name into an aviation icon. 

Earhart was the second person to complete a nonstop solo flight across the ocean, determined to make the trip alone after keeping the logs on a three-person transatlantic flight. At 7:20 PM on May 20, 1932, Earhart took off from Newfoundland in her fire engine-red Vega 5B, bound for Europe. During her flight, Earhart contended with storm fronts, faulty altitude equipment, and even a small fire. Her original plan was to make it all the way to Paris, a feat that would match her predecessor, Charles Lindbergh. After fourteen hours of ice and wind, a fuel leak cut the trip shorter than hoped, and Earhart was forced to land instead near Derry.

After this astonishing feat, Earhart rocketed to fame. She became an icon for women's achievements in the early 20th century and even developed a life-long friendship with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

The specimen in the MIni Museum is a swatch of red fabric from the very same Vega 5B aircraft that Earhart piloted during her transatlantic flight. It was a single-engine craft with a one-piece spruce wing and fuselage giving it a strong but lightweight frame. She affectionately referred to the plane as her “Little Red Bus”. 

The material comes to us by way of the Smithsonian. The museum purchased the plane in 1966 from the Franklin Institute. In the 1970s, restoration work began on the craft and several sections of material were sold to private collectors. Only a tiny amount of this material made it to the broader public in the form of small displays. It's taken us many years of patient collecting to acquire enough of these original displays to bring this specimen to the world.

26 - EMPIRE STATE BUILDING (Stainless Steel Mullions)

"We’re going to build the biggest and the highest building in the entire world over there." ~ John J. Raskob, builder of the Empire State Building

It’s July 1945 in New York and a thick fog has enveloped the city. Office workers in the Empire State Building go about their day as usual, when suddenly they hear the drone of an airplane nearby and feel the shake of an enormous explosion…

The Empire State Building reigned as the tallest building in both its own city and the entire world for four decades. This skyscraper was so tall that it even proved a hazard. On July 28th, 1945, a B-25 bomber traveling in thick fog crashed between the 79th and 80th floors. In the chaos that followed, 14 people died and many more were injured, including an elevator operator who fell 75 stories down a shaft when a cable snapped. Despite the extensive damage, the building was able to reopen just 48 hours later.

The crash was a bleak mark on an otherwise beloved building. It was in 1929 that Empire State Inc. announced their plans to construct the tallest building in existence—a state-of-the-art, 80-story office building in the heart of New York City. The Empire State Building exceeded even these grand ambitions. Coming in under budget and months ahead of schedule, the skyscraper was the first to rise over 100 stories. Featured in countless photographs, movies, and TV shows, its Art Deco style is a staple of the New York skyline.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a section of continuous stainless steel mullions that frame the windows of this magnificent structure. The section was dislodged during the collision in 1945 and was acquired at auction in 2021.

27 - COLD WAR ESPIONAGE (Soviet Spy Camera Button)

“The K.G.B. is removed from the control of the people. It’s the most tightly closed, the most conspiratorial of all the government institutions.” -Speech given by Yuri P. Vlasov, May 21, 1989

During the Cold War, the rival intelligence outlets of the East and West employed all manner of gadgets to conduct their espionage operations. There were the deadly poison-tipped umbrellas and cyanide capsules, but the real art of spycraft were the more subtle methods of espionage, like the Ajax-12 spy camera.

The Ajax-12 was a small film camera used by the KGB and its affiliates from 1951 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was manufactured by Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod (KMZ) which designed many cameras for the Soviet army and the KGB. The camera’s streamlined design includes a hand-wound mechanism, so as to not rely on batteries and the lack of a viewfinder to save space. This meant that agents had to line up their shots well and hope they could capture a clear photo, as they would often only get one chance.

The Ajax-12 was typically deployed with a specialized lens designed to fit behind a coat button. In this configuration, the camera operated by means of a switch inside the user's pocket to open and close the fake coat button. The device wasn’t perfect – agents were directed to cough to cover the sound of the shutter’s click. However, it was so small and reliable that it could be used in many different ways, even concealed inside an umbrella.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a button used to obscure the Ajax-12 camera. The buttons, along with camera and other historical accessories, were acquired as part of a larger collection in Belarus.

28 - WALT DISNEY (Disneyland Apartment, Main Street U.S.A.)

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are…
~ Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio (1940) by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates for the first time. Instantly capturing the imagination of millions of visitors, the "Happiest Place on Earth" became an icon of American popular culture. For Walt Disney himself, the park was a place where both parents and children could look forward to exploring, and he shared that adventure with his own family.

Discreetly hidden above the iconic firehouse on Main Street was a private apartment for the Disney family. Known as the Cranberry Room, this small space was decorated in the Victorian style by set decorator Emile Kuri. Kuri described working with Walt like "working in another world”, and yes, if you're wondering, the room was equipped with a working fire pole hidden in a closet.

This sense of fun and dedication to detail is the hallmark of Walt Disney. As a child, he discovered his love for drawing and eventually moved into cartooning. The struggles Walt and his brother Roy faced during the early days of the emergent animation industry only strengthened his desire to share his vision with the world.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of the original carpet installed in the Cranberry Room. The full carpet was replaced during a later renovation, and the swatch was purchased by Mini Museum from the premier gallery of early animation art and Disneyana memorabilia.

29 - QUEEN OF THE SKIES (Boeing 747)

"When we were told it's impossible, we knew it's the right way to be done." - Joe Sutter, Boeing 747 Chief Engineer

In the years following the Second World War, advancements in technology and the need for mass transportation led to the democratization of air travel. To cope with the growing demand, Pan Am commissioned Boeing to build the 747, the largest commercial airliner in the world. The plane's size and innovative design transformed aviation, making long-distance flights more affordable and accessible to the public.

Designed and built in just two years and four months, the 747 was a feat of engineering. The original craft measured over 70 meters (231 feet) long with a wingspan of 59.6 meters (195 feet), making it one of the largest passenger planes in the world and the first to earn the "Jumbo Jet" moniker. Its records include the fastest commercial flight between London and New York (five hours), topping out at 825 mph.

The 747 did more than change the economics of air travel— it reshaped the entire concept of what flying could be. Its unique, wide-body cabin raised seat numbers, bringing down ticket costs and changing the business of long flights. The plane's size, speed, and range also opened up new possibilities for air travel, enabling airlines to expand their routes and connect people across the globe.

Over the next six decades, the industry continued to evolve, and new economic realities set in. Airlines began to shift towards smaller, more fuel-efficient planes, and the last 747 rolled off the production line in early 2023, marking the end of an era.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment from one of several parts that were attached to EI BED. Built in 1970, EI BED was most famous for its service to Irish National Airline Aer Lingus from 1979 through most of 1995, where it was also known as "St. Kieran/Ciarán." The 747 represented the pinnacle of the golden age of air travel, a time when flying was a luxurious and glamorous experience.

30 - WOODSTOCK (The Original 1969 Stage)

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

 ~ Joni Mitchell, "Woodstock"

The year is 1969, and on the property of a local dairy farmer in Upstate New York, two rock and roll music festival financiers faced a difficult decision. Should they finish the fencing and ticket booths to collect income on the concert, or finish the stage so the performers have a completed venue for the weekend? The choice was made for them when tens of thousands of early attendees showed up and camped out in front of the construction, necessitating the stage's completion.

What followed was a momentous event that would define a generation. Over 450,000 people descended upon the Woodstock music festival, far exceeding the expected crowd of 50,000. The air was charged with excitement and anticipation as music legends took to the stage to celebrate peace, love, and unity.

The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of the original stage that hosted this iconic moment. More than thirty bands stood on this stage and played to the masses. Legendary artists such as Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young electrified the crowds. Then, at the end of the third day, Jimi Hendrix took to the stage near sundown and closed the show with iconic renditions of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "Purple Haze".

After the concert, the plywood was repurposed for use as a local paddle ball court for 48 years until a Woodstock attendee recognized the manufacturer's stamp on the plywood. Today, pieces of the Woodstock stage are proudly on display in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, bearing the names of legendary performers. Now, we have the chance to add a piece of this historic event to the Fifth Edition and bring the energy of the greatest concert of all time to your collection.

31 - NUCLEAR ARMS RACE (Trident I C4 Missile)

“The United States and Russia each have an actual Doomsday Machine… This is true even though the Cold War that rationalized their existence and hair-trigger status–and their supposed necessity to national security–ended thirty years ago.” -Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine

During the Cold War, the United States staggered its missile arsenal across three points: land-based silos, airborne bombers, and nuclear-powered submarines. The Ohio-class submarines measured 170 meters (560 ft) and carried up to 20 nuclear missiles at a time, ready to fire upon confirmation from US Strategic Command. The first submarines were used in the 1970s, carrying a payload of Trident I MIRV nuclear warheads. Had they ever launched, the results would have been apocalyptic.

The Trident I C4 had a long career, replacing the Poseidon C3 in 1979 and continuing operation until 2005. A single missile could travel over 4,000 nautical miles, making it a powerful nuclear deterrent. Its next iteration, the Trident II D5, continues to be stocked aboard current-day Ohio-class submarines. 

This specimen is a section of aluminum from a Trident I first-stage motor bulkhead decommissioned in 2022. The missile was detonated and rendered inert as a part of the US and Russian Federation New START Treaty to decrease the amount of nuclear warheads of both nations. The specimen was donated by TSgt. Michael Newton, assigned to the 775th EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Flight at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Michael and his wife Katie are longtime members of the Mini Museum community, and we are greatly indebted to both of them for sharing this amazing specimen. THANK YOU!

32 - SONY WALKMAN (Personal Music Revolution)

"Hello, I am Akio Morita and I have been Sony's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the last 10 years." These are the first words played on the original demonstration tape of the Sony Walkman — the beginning of a new era in music history.

Morita was welcoming a group of journalists to a park, each with their own personal Walkman. As they looked to their surroundings, a narrator pointed out women exercising, teenagers biking, children playing, all of them with Walkmen of their own, all in their own curated worlds.

In 1979, Sony released the Walkman, a portable cassette player that revolutionized the world of consumer electronics. It was this device that put music in the palm of our hands, ushering in a new era of technology. During development, the Walkman received some internal pushback by those who believed there wasn't an audience for a playback-only device, but the Walkman was an instant success, selling three times the amount of units Sony predicted for the new tech.

Originally, the Walkman was marketed overseas under different names, with sellers rejecting the Japanese made portmanteau. By the mid-1980s however, the name Walkman was universally used, becoming the shorthand for any portable music player. Much of the marketing for the device focused on tying its Japanese origin to cutting-edge technology and innovation. 

Along with its popularity came concerns, but the device’s runaway success was enough to quash any hand-wringing over headphone culture. The Walkman in a very real way changed everything, not just how we listen to music, but how we move through space, a soundtrack augmenting our daily lives. This specimen is a piece of a 1979 Sony WALKMAN device, which was an early example of the “Cool Japan" cultural exchange.


“‘With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get up this hill... The trick is to get back down alive.’” -Into Thin Air

Mount Everest (Nepali: Sagarmatha सगरमाथा; Tibetan: Chomolungma ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ; Chinese: Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng 珠穆朗玛峰) is the tallest mountain in the world. The peak lies directly on the border of Nepal and China, rising 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level. Since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary completed the first documented summit climb in 1953, just over 6,000 climbers have reached the top of the mountain, some multiple times. Many more have been forced to turn back, while at least 300 have died during the journey.

Those who choose to scale the mountain come prepared and work together to make it to the top, relying on rope systems to safely summit peaks. Fixed ropes are those bolted to a mountain that serves as a means of ascent and a lifeline for climbers. Mountaineers use jumars to climb these ropes, handheld mechanisms that allow for ascent but prevent backwards movement in case a climber slips. With these ropes and tools, climbers on Everest are able to safely reach the top of the world.

This specimen is a climbing rope that was used on Mount Everest. It was retrieved during a massive cleanup effort in 2018. This specimen was procured directly by Hans Fex in Khumjung, Nepal in the summer of 2019.

34 - GATEWAY TO THE STARS (Kennedy Space Center, LC-39A)

A rocket assembly sits on a launch pad, with its astronauts encased in bulky suits, ready for their mission. Then a voice comes over their radios: “Liftoff in 3, 2, 1…”

On a small sliver of land off the coast of Florida sits the origin point for many of humankind’s greatest space explorations. Merritt Island houses the Kennedy Space Center and Launch Complex 39, home to the most iconic spacecraft launches in American history, from the Apollo missions to the Space Shuttle program to the Artemis missions of today.

First used in 1967 with the flight test of a Saturn V rocket, Launch Pad 39A has also hosted the 1969 Apollo 11 launch, the majority of the Space Shuttle launches, and today is leased by SpaceX for further testing of their Dragon craft. The Kennedy Space Center remains in use because its location is the perfect spot for launches, being beside open water and propelled by the speed of the Earth’s rotation near the equator.

This specimen is an original light support pole that was constructed as part of the Space Shuttle redesign of Launch Pad 39A. The fixture was part of the closest structure to the shuttle vehicle and lit the way for maintenance work on many rocket launches. Originally attached to the Fixed Service Structure in the late 1970s, the specimen was removed in 2016 as part of the refurbishing process for SpaceX. The material is a special, blast-protective steel designed to withstand the searing heat of the most powerful rockets ever produced.

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