If you’re looking for a unique and educational destination, that’s fun for the whole family, the Museum of Osteology is the place for you. So, what is osteology? Simply stated, it is the study of bones; and this place has lots of bones! The Museum of Osteology is America’s only skeleton museum and it’s located right here in Oklahoma City.
The museum features over 330 skeletons from all over the world, and yes, they have real human skulls and skeletons as well. But don’t let that mislead you. It’s not a Halloween attraction. Exhibits are presented in classic, artful displays and focus on teaching visitors about various topics such as locomotion, adaptation, and classification.
The museum is Jay Villemarette’s life-long dream come to fruition. The museum got its roots when the curious 7 year old found a dog skull in 1972. When Jay’s father saw his interest, he encouraged Jay to find and collect other skulls. As he grew, so did his interest and collection. At fourteen, Jay won 5th place in the Oklahoma State Fair for an animal skull display. After graduating high school, Jay continued to collect and sell skulls in his spare time. As sales grew Jay, along with his wife Kim, began to clean skulls in their kitchen. Starting with a one-page price list in 1986, they turned this unusual hobby into a business Skulls Unlimited.
Skulls Unlimited is a biological supply company that specializes in selling and cleaning skulls, bones, and skeletons. After 23 successful years, Jay was able to pursue his dream of opening a museum with all the specimens he had collected over the years. On October 1st, 2010, the Museum of Osteology officially opened to the public.
Visitors to the Museum are greeted by skeletons from giraffe, camel, rhino, hippo, elephant, and even a 40 foot humpback whale. Other skeletons include numerous mammals, reptiles and birds from all over the world. The museum’s educational exhibits focus on the form and function of the skeletal system, adaptation, locomotion, classification and Oklahoma wildlife. The newest displays in the Museum of Osteology include a bird of prey exhibit, a dwarf human skeleton and a T rex skull.
One thing that most visitors ask when they first arrive at the museum, is; “where do you get all of these skeletons?” Since no animals are killed for the museum, all of the specimens are obtained from animals that have died from natural causes at zoos, game ranches, or from animal breeders. Some specimens are also donated from hunters and trappers.
The process to clean and assemble the bones is where the real work begins. Starting with a deceased animal, the skin, internal organs and most of the muscle tissue is removed by hand. Next stop, the bugs. That’s right, bugs. The larvae from Dermestid beetles are used to actually eat the remaining tissue from the bones. These little voracious eating machines can eat their way into all the tiny nooks and crannies that would be otherwise impossible to clean. The best part is, they do not eat the actual bone so when they are finished with a specimen, all that remains is a nice, tissue-free pile of bones. The specimen is then ready for a quick dip in a chemical bath to sanitize and whiten the bones before being assembled. This whole process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the specimen.
In addition to numerous educational exhibits, the museum is open for school and specialty group visits. Groups can take part in an interactive scavenger hunt or participate in hands-on educational programs in the classroom. Programs include Identification, Pathology, Locomotion, and Forensic Osteology and all programs are based on Oklahoma State Educational Science Standards (PASS/C3)
The Museum of Osteology is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturdays 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. To learn more, please contact the Museum of Osteology at 405-814-0006 or visit www.museumofosteology.org. Admission discount coupon available in the Stay and Save insert in this magazine or on online keyokc.com/coupons.html.