This spring, visitors to the Canadian Museum of Civilization have the opportunity to come face to face with a dragon, a griffin, a unicorn and even the fearsome sea monster Kraken.
In its newest exhibit, Mythic Beasts: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids -- opening May 15 -- the museum presents the legends and cultural roots of some of the world's most enduring mythical icons, including the phoenix, Cyclops, Mishepishu -- a cat-like water spirit of Ojibwa lore -- and the chupacabra, a vicious, dog-sized predator made popular by the Internet.
"Humans have long feared and sometimes worshipped magical beasts of the land, sea and air," said Victor Rabinovitch, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp.
"Whether inspired by fossils, living animals or pure fiction, whether malevolent or beneficial, they have an undeniable hold on our imagination."
A collaboration between the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Ga., Mythic Beasts will include lifelike models of some of the world's most famous mythical creatures, artifacts, sculptures, paintings, textiles and scientific materials.
"Mythic Beasts is a tremendous exhibition because it brings together history, psychology, religion, natural science and art to delve into an important dimension of human beliefs," Rabinovitch said.
The exhibition also compares folklore surrounding these creatures in different parts of the world.
While dragons are seen as fire-breathing monsters in Europe, they are auspicious and powerful creatures in China. And while many have heard of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, in North America and the Yeti in the Himalayas, these creatures are also part of the folklore in countries as dispersed as Kenya, Japan, Brazil and Australia.
The exhibit runs through September 20.