MNCH puts mammals through their paces in new exhibit

Cheetah on running track

Beginning March 7, visitors to the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History can experience a track and field competition like no other, with cheetahs, chimps and kangaroos all going for gold.

On March 7 and 8, the museum opens “Natural Athletes: Track & Field Champs of the Animal Kingdom,” an exhibit that uses the framework of a sports competition to showcase mammals in motion, offering hands-on opportunities to explore animal adaptations, movement science, wellness and more.

“Each of seven animals is presented as the ‘champ’ in one of seven different track and field events,” said Ann Craig, exhibitions director at the museum, “with the Siberian tiger as the high jump gold medalist and Oregon's own pronghorn antelope as the winner of the 800-meter dash.”

The museum’s first Spanish-English bilingual exhibit, “Natural Athletes” also profiles real-life champions from around the world in men’s, women’s and para-athletic track and field, celebrating excellence and accessibility in competitive sports.

“At the heart of the exhibit are stories about perseverance, whether that’s animals adapting to changing ecosystems or differently abled athletes using prosthetic technologies to optimize their performance and overall well-being,” Craig said.

Co-sponsored by PeaceHealth, the exhibit highlights health and fitness research happening at the University of Oregon and encourages visitors to enhance their own wellness through movement.

“PeaceHealth is delighted to be supporting this unique and inspiring exhibit,” said Susan Blane, director of community health for PeaceHealth Oregon. “Improving community health and wellness is our mission, and we see this collaboration as a way to encourage physical activity, promote healthy living and provide opportunities for shared experiences. It’s a wonderful complement to our partnerships with TrackTown USA, the Eugene Marathon, the Olympic Trials and 2021 World Track and Field Championships.”

On view through Aug. 30, the exhibit is timed to coincide with the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials set for June 19-28 at Hayward Field.

“‘Natural Athletes’ will be a unique accompaniment to the TrackTown 20 Olympic Trials this year,” said Jeannine Erving, manager of stakeholder relations at TrackTown USA. “It’s a terrific opportunity for families to delve into the science of athletics and body mechanics as our TrackTown community welcomes Olympic athletes to Hayward Field.”

The exhibit opening celebration will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with family-friendly activity stations set up from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. Admission is free for UO students, faculty and staff.

—By Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History