Dr. Jane Goodall is a remarkable woman and the new exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum from September 19 through January 4, 2004 truly exemplifies that fact. She has been involved in the longest running natural history project in the world. That topic, discovering chimpanzees in the Gombe, is the subject of this exhibition.
Enter the exhibit, step into the African jungle, and explore the world of chimpanzees through Jane Goodall's eyes. At the Observation Station visitors are asked to watch a movie clip of chimpanzees and take notes on their behavior. Watch a male chimp aggressively run through the forest grabbing branches and throwing rocks or another chimp fishing for ants with a stick he uses for a tool. All these behaviors are explained in detail easy for children to follow.
Around the corner step into a tent similar to the one Jane lived in for several years at the base camp set up while conducting her research. Here you can watch videos and learn about her daily camp life and her first interactions with the chimpanzees.
Then, wander through the treetops to experience the world of chimpanzees yourself. Dynamic activities make you feel as though you are one of the animals. Walk down a path with a pair of chimp arms so you can see what it is like to walk like a chimp. Did you know that chimpanzees have nests? Kids can climb and explore a treetop nest of a chimpanzee and see what it's like.
Several kiosks are set up with all sorts of interactive ideas. One of the most unique is a kiosk where you can see if you can imitate chimp calls. Choose from a variety of chimp situations and watch the various calls a chimp can make. Then you can record yourself trying to imitate the calls and see how good you did. I was a bit intimidated making chimp noises but there was no one around when I tried it. A little child about 5 years old barged in front of me to record himself. I tried to show him how but apparently he already knew and he hit the record button and started hooting and hollering away. If was very funny. He liked it so much he kept running around the entire exhibit pretending to be a chimp. Even when he fell down he kept making the noises and continued on all fours.
There is also a scale where you can weigh yourself. Instead of seeing pounds, you find out which primate your weigh compares to such as a grown up gorillas, a gibbon or a baby orangutan. There is also a place where you compare your strength to that of a wild chimpanzee or other primate the squeezing with one hand as hard as you can. You find out which primate you are as strong as. Boy, those guys are strong! None of us came close.