Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Giants, Dragons & Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures features unique cultural objects to highlight the surprising similarities and differences in the ways people around the world envision and depict mythic creatures. The exhibition includes models and cast fossils of prehistoric animals to investigate how they could have – through misidentification, speculation, fear, or imagination – inspired the development of several legendary creatures. For example, visitors will discover how narwhal tusks were believed to be magical remnants of unicorn horns, how dinosaur fossils may have been mistaken for the remains of griffins, and how tales of sea monsters may simply have been fisherman’s tales of real creatures such as the oarfish and giant squid.
Exhibition highlights include a stunning vibrant sculpture of the African water spirit Mami Wata; a replica “Feejee mermaid,” of the type made famous by showman P. T. Barnum, created by sewing the head and torso of a monkey to the tail of a fish; a “life-size” model of a European unicorn; and a dramatic model of a kraken, whose tentacles appear to rise out of the floor as if surfacing from the sea.
Giants, Dragons & Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (amnh.org).