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Arts and Entertainment

Closed Mondays: George C. Page Museum

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Los Angeles is home to some of the most magnificent museums in the country. Amongst the excitement of LACMA and the glamour of the Getty, some of the smaller museums go unnoticed. Let's visit the overlooked, the obscure, and even the unusual. If we're lucky, they won't even be closed Mondays.

When people think of the La Brea Tar Pits, they usually think of the outdoors -- the replicas dramatically "trapped" in tar, and Pit 91, where scientists continue to unearth fossils under tourists' watchful eyes. But the George C. Page Museum is where the real action is.

George C. Page was a philanthropist with a keen interest in the "tar pits." According to the museum's website, he came to Rancho La Brea in 1917 and was disappointed to find that "the skeletons of Ice Age animals he sought were not on-site, but seven miles away at the Natural History Museum." After making his fortune, he offered to finance an on-site facility in 1973. "Construction began in 1975 and the museum opened to the public in 1977."

More than one million bones have been recovered at Rancho La Brea, the oldest of which is a wood fragment dated at around 40,000 years old. "Nearly all of the skeletons on display are real fossil bones found at the tar pits...Missing bones or parts originally composed of cartilage have been reconstructed with resin or plaster."

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There are two films shown repeatedly throughout the day. Although they are educational, they might be upsetting for children or the very empathetic. It is a common belief that animals sunk into the tar like quicksand, but they usually became mired in only inches of tar, where they slowly died due to exposure and predators. In a bit of instant karma, predators also found themselves trapped more often than not. The films graphically recreate the animals' struggles, which can be poignant for some viewers, and disturbing for others.

The museum, which is located in Hancock Park, is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. excluding major holidays. Admission is $7 for adults, and free on the first Tuesday of each month.

Insects, birds, and even large mammals continue to become stuck in the tar even today, so if you tour the grounds, watch your step!