The bubbling tar pits, which attracted Ice Age mammals in search of prey to the area thousands of years ago, continue to draw two-legged visitors hungry for discovery at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.
From the sprawling greenspace around the museum to the iconic lake pit with a fiberglass family of mammoths fronting Wilshire Boulevard, the La Brea Tar Pits are an instantly recognizable landmark to millions of people who have visited over the years, many for the first time as schoolchildren. The landscape is a major part of the attraction with stories to tell about flora and fauna from 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.
The fossils kept inside the museum were found in the deep pits of asphalt that dot the parkland and are reminders of the fate that befell Ice Age herbivores like mammoths, horses and camels when they became trapped in sticky tar. Their fossils are accompanied by those of saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and other predators that fed on stuck animals and themselves became trapped. Combined with insects, plants, rocks and other materials from the site, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum unlock secrets to the biological and ecological evolution of Los Angeles with new discoveries happening every day.
The Tar Pits are the only active urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. From platforms in the park, visitors can look down and see fossils being unearthed from the pits and catalogued. Step inside the museum and peer through a glass partition to view scientists and volunteers cleaning, preparing and researching the fossils in laboratories. Then tour the galleries and experience the enormous mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats and giant sloths and learn about how they evolved and disappeared. The museum combines permanent exhibits with special displays that continually offer something new.
“This fall at La Brea Tar Pits, visitors can see the new exhibition ‘Mammoths and Mastodons,’ which brings a refresh to the museum and features new interactive displays,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, which oversees the Tar Pits. “[They can also] experience the mesmerizing Second Home Serpentine Pavilion by SelgasCano.”
Prehistoric pachyderms take center stage in “Mammoths and Mastodons,” which includes life-sized models, hands-on interactive activities and information about the latest discoveries and research. Through Nov. 24, visit the Second Home Serpentine Pavilion by SelgasCano at La Brea Tar Pits, a multipurpose social space hosting free public programs and events on the intersection of art, design, science and nature.
The 866-square-foot pavilion is perched on a grassy ellipse near the museum in a chrysalis-like structure covered in a translucent, multi-colored fabric membrane. A partnership between the London-based creative business incubator Second Home and the Natural History Museums, the pavilion enables people to experience architecture through shape, light, transparency, color and materials.
Little guests (and all who are young at heart) can also journey to a world lost in time during daily screenings of “Titans of the Ice Age 3D,” a film chronicling the plight of mammals on the brink of extinction. Take an adventure on the frozen tundra and encounter some of the most interesting and exciting animals of all time.
While the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum offer a glimpse into the distant past, administrators are also looking toward the future. The museum and surrounding park are undergoing a multi-year process to reimagine the site, which will be dramatically transformed in the coming years. Concepts from three renowned firms which envision drastically different designs are currently under consideration, and public input will be a key component as the plan moves forward. Plans call for the firm with the winning design for the future of the La Tar Pits and Museum to be selected by the end of the year. The timeline for the transformation will unfold from there, promising even more exciting connections to the past for longtime visitors and new generations.
“All three submissions offer fascinating ideas for creating a more robust and engaging visitor experience while enhancing the Tar Pits as a destination and cultural hub that inspires wonder in our natural and cultural worlds,” Bettison-Varga said.
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