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Eugene's Hot Spot for History

If your child digs history, they'll love Explore Oregon! at Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

  • Ray Troll's painting of a sabertoothed salmon, image
    Photo caption
    Ray Troll's painting of a sabertoothed salmon, image
  • Ray Troll's painting of a salmon, image
    Photo caption
    Wildlife artist Ray Troll's wicked salmon patrol a gallery wall.

When an already impressive museum suddenly doubles its size, you can expect big things. In spring 2014, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon opens a new hall to house Explore Oregon!, an exhibit brimming with fossils, hands-on displays, and artwork chronicling Northwest history.

Kids get to dig up, identify, and label fossils, and everyone can appreciate the bared teeth on the skull of an ancestral canine. A plate tectonics mockup lets visitors spread the seafloor with the turn of a crank. And a colorful mural by the wilder-than-usual wildlife artist Ray Troll commemorates Oregon’s own sabertoothed salmon, a six-foot-long monster from a few million years ago with the fangs to justify its hyperbolic name.

That toothy fish—along with some giant pigs, insanely antlered deer, and other long-extinct creatures—lives on in a traveling show of images from Troll’s book Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. “Why even bother making creatures up?” he says. “The real things are more amazing.” AAA members get a $1 discount on admission. (541) 346-3024,

Photography courtesy of Museum of Natural and Cultural History

This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.