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Natural History Museum celebrates its 100th birthday all year long

Flickr via Greg Lilly Photos

L.A.'s Natural History Museum turns 100 this year and has planned months of events and new exhibits to celebrate the occasion.

Mastodons and dinosaurs, ready your party hats: The Natural History Museum (NHM) is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and the Exposition Park museum is pulling out all the stops over the coming months.

From cocktail-driven safaris to the unveiling of new exhibits and outdoor science projects, the museum will embrace its centennial while looking forward to the next one.

“By the time NHM reaches its centennial in November 2013, it will have reaffirmed and honored its past while setting a thoroughly new example of how a museum can be a part of the life of a 21st century metropolis,” said NHM President and Director Dr. Jane Pisano in a statement. “At a time when humanity’s impact on the environment is front-page news, NHM has established a new mission to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.” 

The celebration kicked off last month with the launch of a campaign dubbed "Wonders Never Cease," which aims to collect memories and anecdotes about the museum from the people who have visited. You can Instagram or Facebook photos, hand-draw one on your next museum visit or email your selections. 

Coming up on February 23 is the V.I.P Centennial Safari, which includes appetizers and cocktail and is only open to museum members and guests.

Here's how the NHM describes the experience: "For one night only, ignore the 'staff only' signs, and go past the exhibt halls, and take a look into the Museum's collection area where scientists invite you to view the Museum's most prized specimens."

Other celebration highlights coming up this summer include the opening of a hands-on nature lab, learning gardens and dramatic display of a 63-foot-long fin whale in a new pavillion.

Coming up in July is the debut of a new permanent exhibit called "Becoming Los Angeles." This 14,000-square-foot space "tells the intertwined stories of cultural and ecological shifts in the development of Los Angeles and its region."

It will include multimedia displays and odes to the city's history -- including a full-sized Auto Vehicle Company car made in downtown L.A. in 1902, and an animation stand that was built by Walt Disney in his uncle's L.A. garage and later used to film Steamboat Willie.

And in the true spirit of milestone birthdays, the NHM will be reflecting on its past while looking toward its future. 

Upcoming events will highlight the renovated, 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall that debuted in 2011. This collection is twice the size of the previous hall, and includes 20 full-body dinos. Here, visitors can see the youngest known Tyrannosaurus rex baby fossil and  a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus (an incredibly long-necked plant eater.)

If you feel drawn to these displays, you may in fact have dinosaur roots yourself. To find out what kind of dinsoaur you are, NHM has provided an online quiz to help you figure it out. This 10-question multiple choice test asks things like "If you were craving a tasty snack, which would you sink your teeth into?" with possible answers including "Asparagus omelette" and "A char-grilled beef skewer."

For more information about the museum visit NHM's website.

What is your favorite part of the Natural History Museum? What do you hope to see added over the next 100 years? Let us know in the comments!

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