Article

What Animal Had a 'Zoologically Improbable' Facial Expression?

This was certainly a new way to "engage with a museum's spaces, its collections, and its history."

Published May 28, 2021

For several years, many social media users have puzzled over a photograph of a sign, seemingly from a museum display, stating that "This object has been removed as we revise its facial expression, which was deemed zoologically improbable and/or terrifying to small children":

zoologically improbable facial expression

"Is this sign real?" countless viewers have wondered. And if so, what museum was it from, and what animal or other object on exhibit there bore a facial expression "deemed zoologically improbable and/or terrifying to small children"?

The HMNH logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the sign associates it with the Harvard Museum of Natural History. However, that institution did not remove any object from their display for the reasons stated on the sign. The photograph stems from a performance art special event the museum held one evening in 2020 titled "Bizarre Animals," described as follows:

On the evening of March 26th, artists will overrun the Harvard Museum of Natural History for a special evening of performance, sound, and video throughout the galleries. For two and half hours, twelve artists from across the country -- including many Harvard alumni and several current students -- will transform the museum into laboratory, library, exploratorium, and stage. Through thoughtful interventions and captivating experiments, viewers will experience new ways to engage with the museum's spaces, its collections, and its history.

One pair of participants in that event placed a variety of unusual and amusing signs around the museum's exhibits, such as:

This object removed due to spontaneous animation
This object has been detained on suspicion of un-American activities
Other birds were here but they flew thataway --->
This object has been removed for not playing well with others
This object was voted off the island
This object is still buffering
This object has not been removed; it's just invisible now
This object pulled a Charlie Sheen
This object is an exhibitionist and has been removed
This object has been removed by global warming
This object has been temporarily consumed

Their efforts are recorded in the following photo gallery:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/csdavis/sets/72157626335833539/with/5602619897/

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994 as a creative outgrowth of his wide-ranging interests in a variety of subjects (particularly folklo ... read more

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