Budding young scientists and nature lovers of all ages can experience the world of the legendary scientist and conservationist, Jane Goodall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA).
Now on view through April 17, 2022, Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall is a traveling exhibition organized by the National Geographic Society in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute.
Becoming Jane takes visitors on a journey from Dr. Goodall's childhood in England, to her landmark work documenting chimpanzees in Africa, and her current mission to mobilize people around the world to care for our environment.
As they explore Becoming Jane, guests will take a deep dive into Goodall's life and work. The kid-friendly immersive experience features narration from Goodall herself - she even talks to visitors as a hologram!
The exhibition begins with Goodall's childhood in 1930s England, where her fascination with the natural world was evident at an early age:
- The stuffed chimpanzee toy Goodall's father gave her when she was just a year old.
- Her mother's story about how four-year-old Jane went missing for a short time, and was found in the hen house because she wanted to know how the eggs were laid.
- Rusty, the dog that Goodall cared for in her youth.
- The Alligator Society, a nature group Jane formed with her sister and friends as kids.
- Worn copies of beloved childhood books, like The Story of Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan of the Apes.
Goodall initially wanted to write stories about nature. But her career took a different path, which the exhibit traces along an easy-to-follow route that leads visitors to a hands-on replica of the tent where Goodall and her mother stayed during an early excursion to Gombe Stream Game Reserve. (Goodall traveled with her mom because she was 26 years old and single - at the time it was considered inappropriate for a young woman to embark on such a trek solo.)
Goodall's mom provided first aid supplies to locals, while her daughter spent months trying to get close enough to the chimpanzees to make observations about them.
The exhibition is as much about the chimpanzees as it is about Goodall. Two family trees trace the lineage of the chimps that Goodall observed, while interactive displays show viewers the similarities between chimpanzee and human features.
Test your chimpanzee vocalization skills at a fun station that plays clips of chimp sounds - like the grunts they make when they're enjoying their food - and you can try to mimic them.
Another section of Becoming Jane features striking photos of Goodall in the field. Taken for National Geographic by her then-husband, Hugo van Lawick, the display includes the iconic image of Goodall touching hands with a baby chimpanzee named Flint.
"Every individual matters, has some role to play, even if they don’t yet know what it is.” ~ Dr. Jane Goodall
The final segment of the exhibition digs into the conservation issues that are part of Goodall’s ongoing work. Visitors will learn about the threats that chimpanzees face, like habitat loss and hunting, as well as the underlying issues that contribute to these threats and strategies to alleviate them.
At the end of the exhibition, guests are invited to make a pledge to decrease reliance on plastic, stay away from palm oil, or go on nature walks. After you complete the pledge and enter your email, you’ll receive a message from the National Geographic Society and NHMLA on how you can stick to your promise.
These pledges might seem trivial compared to issues as dire as climate change and habitat loss, but they aren’t. In a video interview with NHMLA President and Director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, Goodall stressed the major point of her work: “The main message is that every individual matters, has some role to play, even if they don’t yet know what it is.”
Allow at least 45 minutes for the full Becoming Jane experience. Round out your day at NHMLA with a visit to the Nature Lab - learning about LA's wildlife is a nice complement to the Goodall exhibition. And if you pledged to go on nature walks, you can get started with a stroll through the NHMLA Nature Gardens.
Becoming Jane is a Special Exhibition - for non-members, entry is $9 in addition to $15 General Admission tickets to NHMLA. While the exhibition's content is primarily in English, tablets are available with an app that offers Spanish translations.
For more info and to purchase tickets, visit the NHMLA website.