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Orlando, Florida

Skeletons: Museum of Osteology

Hundreds of skulls and bones at the largest skeleton museum in the country.  

Following the success of his original skeleton museum in Oklahoma City, skull expert Jay Villamette opened this new, even larger attraction in Orlando. His two museums remain the only skeleton museums in the country. Fortunately, they’re both extensive.

Skeletons: Museum of Osteology opened in Orlando in May of 2015 and features over 500 real animal skeletons. Each of these skeletons (and their complex dioramas) was cleaned and articulated by Villamette’s company, Skulls Unlimited International, which is one of the world’s leading providers of osteological specimens and one of the more exciting family-run businesses in Oklahoma, if not in the entire country.

Even for experts, bone display is a long and complicated process. It can take hundreds of hours to correctly articulate a full skeleton, and even that follows months of preparation. Skulls Unlimited uses dermestid beetles to clean corpses. While the hungry beetles strip away flesh and tissue methodically and completely, it can take them six months to get through a larger animal. One can imagine how long it took the industrious insects to clean the 14-foot elephant on display in Orlando. (In addition to completed skeletons, the museum also features a small exhibit of the beetles in action.)

After the beetles have had their way with a corpse, the bones are bleached in hydrogen peroxide before being assembled by Villamette’s team. For Orlando, they’ve assembled a little bit of everything: monkeys, bats, gorillas. Villamette is particularly proud of the rarer specimens here: There’s a sumatran rhinoceros and two Komodo Dragons. Recently, he told Attractions magazine that if he could acquire one more rare skeleton, he would like for it to be a giant panda. They’re nearly impossible to get ahold of, as the Chinese government keeps such close tabs on the population that even if a panda were to die in an American zoo, the remains would likely be returned. But make no bones about it, even without the dream display, visitors have plenty to see here.

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