A Look at the Florida Natural History Museum By Dom Milocco

Nature on Display! I could stay in these caves forever.

Though the entirety of the Natural History Museum was strikingly interesting, the small and unnoticeable cave exhibit had to be my favorite. The fact that it's easily unseen and fairly hidden from the beaten path of the main exhibits makes it even more special to me. When I entered the cave, I was one with the rocky mouth. I was alone, it was dark, and it was silent. I truly felt connected to the inner workings of our Earth as if I was actually standing in one of these winding beasts. I've always had a knack for caves ever since I explored one on a field trip in 7th grade in South Carolina. It was a riveting experience that I'll never forget. The welcoming darkness and grotesque stalactites brought me in, I couldn't help it. It's different from seeing a cave in a video, through a picture, or via a painting; being there in person and feeling the dense rock around you is a whole other experience in itself. Standing in that exhibit, one can connect with the wildlife that dwell in those caves, you can feel the blood vibrate through your ears with the lack of external sound and elements. It is the most natural connection we can make to the Earth, much like standing in a forested region, but flipped upside down.

Taking this picture took iron courage. The moth was huge and could've flapped at any second.

The butterfly enclosure was a prime example of nature and ethics. Here we can see the conservation and preservation of natural beauty in our own backyard. The enclosure provides a safe, flourishing environment for a variety of butterflies to flutter about and put themselves on display for us all to see. Together we can be members of the biotic community while in this exhibit. The enclosure was extraordinary, butterflies danced about overhead and across flowers, at times even getting somewhat too close to my face. I am deathly afraid of things that flap in my face, so the butterfly exhibit was a little difficult for me occasionally, but I managed to get through unscathed. Despite this feeling, the entire experience was rather serene. I was in awe at the lush greenery, the birds softly chirping, and the babbling brook below. It all came together to create a surreal, rain forest-esque experience.

Everyone in the exhibit was experiencing the same feeling, so we all felt indirectly connected, in a way. It was cool to know that each person was feeling the hand of nature just as I did in that enclosure. The exhibit in its entirety was rather impacting, too. It's eye-opening to see such raw beauty in all of its glory, held together by a steel cage. After seeing this, it was obvious to me that places like this are becoming less and less accessible or existent and actions need to be taken to make sure they are still around for our offspring in the future. After all, it's our duty as humans to uphold this side of nature just as they upheld us for hundreds of generations before us.

I'm diggin' that giant shrimp in the corner.

The oceanic exhibit of the Natural History Museum was the most effective in causing me to step out of my ordinary life and appreciate the eternal. The oceans of this Earth are and will forever be, and with that fact comes the feeling of mystery and eternal questions. Being a tiny diver in this massive, large-scale underwater biome provoked me to think about the life beneath my feet. The abundance of sea life is ever-expanding though it is so fragile and can be so easily wiped out by the unforgiving hand of man. In this exhibit, I was put in the place of a small fish, surrounded by beasts that were much larger than me, much more threatening and dangerous to something of my size. With this in mind, I could put myself in the place of our world's wild sea life and relate with their frailty, it was truly enlightening. Not only should be provoked to keep our waters clean and safe, but we should have a sense of adventure instilled in us from these oceans. So many questions need to be answered about our waters and so much more is awaiting exploration. It is our Earth in its pure and natural state, where man has not yet affected it; it's hard not to appreciate such a biome. Overall, the Natural History Museum did a fantastic job at immersing me into the natural world and caused me to appreciate more of what's beneath me, above me, or right in front of me. The world is awaiting our exploration, we just have to get out there and grasp the adventure by the reigns.

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