There is truly no other museum like it in the Oklahoma City area—or anywhere else in America for that matter. Focusing on the form and function of the skeletal system, this museum offers an up close look at skulls and skeletons from all corners of the world. Here are five reasons to explore this unique museum and give your kids a new appreciation of the natural world.
On the edge of south Oklahoma City, a modest-looking brick building sits in a stark contrast to the neighboring industrial businesses. The sign out front identifies it as the Museum of Osteology—the only museum of its kind in the nation.
A windowed foyer is adorned with exotic and dangerous-looking horned creatures stripped down to bare bone. Inside, two stories of specimens greet you and offer up enough science, wonder, discovery and questions to occupy minds of all ages for a solid afternoon.
The bones of creatures of the sea are suspended in the air, while skeletons that once roamed far off lands perch on their stands; teeth, fangs and tusks exposed for examination. The rest of the museum delivers fascinating skeleton specimens of countless variety. The delicate bones of birds, snakes and woodland creature are artfully, and sometimes humorously, arranged alongside the massive skulls of bison and impressive skeletons of primates. There is most likely an example of your favorite type of animal housed as a skeleton behind the museum’s panes of glass.
The Museum of Osteology was the brain child of Jay Villemarette, owner of Skulls Unlimited. After years of helping hunters, hospitals and museums create their own skeletal trophies, Villemarette had amassed his own impressive collection of wildlife from around the world. In 2010, he opened the doors of the museum and created a landmark new attraction in central Oklahoma. Over the past four years, the museum staff has created an innovative selection of events for both families and adults that highlight the science and discovery of osteology.
The museum is open Monday through Friday 8:00am–5:00pm, Saturdays from 11:00am–5:00pm and Sundays from 1:00pm–5:00pm. Guests can embark on self-guided tours that allow them to look a giraffe in the eye (or rather, eye-socket) or examine Oklahoma’s state bird, the Scissortail Flycatcher at its most basic and bony level. Museum staff have developed a scavenger hunt that encourages deeper exploration of the museum’s 7,000 square feet. For younger guests, parents can choose from a selection of books available at the ticket office that give details and facts about their child’s favorite variety of animal before locating its skeleton within the collection. A Children’s Discovery area on the second floor allows for hands-on exploration. Knowledgeable staff are available for questions and the museum store is well stocked with bits to bring the experience home.
First-time visitors can expect to be greeted by helpful and friendly staff, ready to answer questions and point out the location of any particular favorite types of animal.
The Museum of Osteology offers a unique style of birthday party. For $250 ($225 for museum members), parents can reserve two hours of a private room, admission for up to 25 guests and a fun and educational hands-on experience designed around the birthday child’s favorite animal. Tablecloths and a selection of birthday accoutrement are included in the fee. Advanced registration is required,
Family Night Events
The museum offers family-friendly events throughout the year. On Friday, August 22, the museum is partnering with the Chickasaw Nation to offer a class on basket weaving, tying anthropology to osteology through a shared cultural link and appreciation of Oklahoma culture and history. Advanced registration for all Family Night events is required and costs vary by event.
Murder Mysteries and Bone Heists
Murder Mysteries are adults-only events that make for a unique night out. From date night to a night out with friends, adults join museum staff for a catered dinner, a fictional murder mystery and a compelling investigation delving into forensic osteology. Murder Mysteries are scheduled in advance and pre-registration is required. The event costs between $50 and $60 per participant. Participant packets are mailed out in advance of the date with character lead sheets for those who would like to be in character for the evening.
Kids are invited to a similar, more kid-friendly experience at the museum’s Bone Heists. Using evidence planted by museum staff, families are invited to solve the riddle of who stole a bone from the museum’s collection. Cost for this event is $15-$25 for participating children and $10-$15 for accompanying adults. A catered dinner is provided at the event. Advanced registration is required for both events.
On-Site classes & Educational Outreach
Core to the museum’s educational mission is ongoing education & science literacy. With classes available for preschool through college, these sessions allow for students to learn how to “read” a skeleton. A wide range of classes is offered for school, daycare and organized groups. From “Tooth and Eye-‘Dentification’” to “Forensic Osteology,” students are given hands-on opportunities to explore specimens and experience science at a level carefully designed for their age group. A successful partnership with the Oklahoma Energy Resource Board has allowed for the creation of all-age appropriate classes covering The Story of Oil and discovering the importance and role of micro-fossils.
Museum staff are continuing to brainstorm ideas for new programming, children’s programming and family-oriented activities. Since opening to the public, the museum’s educational activities have been well-received and continue to grow each year. Families with young children, particularly non-readers, can expect to spend an hour to an hour and a half exploring. For families with readers or extremely curious kids, two to three hours would be well within reason.
Visiting the Museum
The Museum of Osteology is located at 10301 S. Sunnylane Avenue, approximately two miles south of I-240 in Oklahoma City. Admission for ages 13 and up is $7, ages 3-12 is $6 and under 3 are free. For more information or to register for any of the classes, courses or events, call 405-814-0006 or visit www.museumofosteology.org.