What lies behind the bones?
Located on the southwestern edge of Oklahoma City is a private museum devoted to osteology, the study of bones and skeletons. The Museum of Osteology’s exhibits allow visitors a unique glimpse into the vertebrate kingdom that hopefully nurtures appreciation for the natural world and its conservation.
Come with us as we dive into what makes this special destination so exciting.
The Largest of Its Kind
The collection housed within the Museum of Osteology is unlike any other in the world. More than 800 skeletons from all corners of the world are on display for visitors to explore the form and function of the skeletal system. Many of these are rare species not typically seen in museum exhibits, ranging in size from tiny mice to a 40-foot humpback whale.
But it’s the additional 7,000 specimens in the archive that make it the largest privately held collection of osteological specimens in the world. Over 2,500 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are represented in this impressive, ethically sourced treasure trove.
A Feeling in His Bones
What some may not know is that a museum collection of this magnitude is 40 years in the making. Jay Villemarette, owner and founder of Skulls Unlimited International, has been passionate about collecting skulls since the age of 7, when he came across a dog skull in the woods. With encouragement from his family and friends, Villemarette began growing his collection and exploring an array of preservation methods before discovering dermestid beetles, or “skin beetles.” This is still the method he uses today!
What started as a childhood interest grew into a side hustle after graduating high school. After deciding to sell skulls full-time, Villemarette channeled his passion and experience into founding Skulls Unlimited, which eventually became a premier provider of osteological specimens to nature centers, museums, medical schools and films. Today, the museum is not only a collector’s success story, but also a fascinating educational tool and epicenter for exploring oddities.
Designed with Learning in Mind
At the heart of the Museum of Osteology is education. It offers STEM programs designed to engage and motivate students of all ages through hands-on, student-centered activities. All educational programs foster problem-solving skills through teamwork and communication and are tailored by grade level, from Pre-K to university. College students interested in animal pathology and forensic osteology have the unique opportunity to take part in the crime lab-based program based on investigation of trauma to the skull. It’s easy to see what makes this a popular destination for field trips and homeschool days!
The Museum of Osteology will also come to you, bringing its student programing to your school, summer camp or university as well as adult outreach opportunities to spice up professional development workshops and team building retreats. Try out the Traveling Trunk Program, filled with hands-on materials, biofact specimens and STEM curriculum, and watch your students or colleagues explore in shock and awe. Young Scouts can even earn their mammal study badge at the museum. A number of 60-minute virtual programs are available for 1st to 12th graders as well.
What’s Coming Up?
Multiple evenings throughout the month, the museum hosts its Forensic Night Event, where each group is assigned a mystery case to solve through a hands-on investigation. This is your chance to explore what forensic anthropologists, law enforcement and investigators can learn by examining human skeletal remains. All skulls are replicas from real incidents. This event is for ages 16 and up, but tickets go fast! The next available event is in October, so get yours while you can.
Other upcoming events include Homeschool Days on August 18 and 27, as well as Junior Forensics events on August 21 and September 11.
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