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7 less-famous natural history museums worth a visit

Burpee Museum of Natural History Jane tyrannosaurus rex

Photo: Burpee Museum of Natural History

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Burpee Museum of Natural History

Established: 1941 in Rockford, Ill.

Head count: More than 70,000 specimens and artifacts on display and in the archives

Beyond the fossils: This true hidden gem of a natural history museum boasts a killer collection of rare and unusual gems … and minerals and rocks. The Carboniferous Coal Forest exhibit isn’t too shabby either. But as things go, the crowd-pleasing, attendance-bumping centerpiece of Rockford’s Burpee Museum of Natural History is, of course, of the paleontological variety: A remarkably preserved, 21-foot-long skeleton of a 66 million-year-old juvenile T. rex named Jane (official name: BMRP 2002.4.1).

Jane (pictured), along with a truly impressive fossil collection, has helped to put the Burpee Museum on the map (you too, Rick Nielsen) and, as a result, the museum has embraced its dino-borne fame and run with it. Brand new to the museum is a teenage triceratops- displaying exhibit called “Homer’s Odyssey: From the Badlands to Burpee” and in March 2013, the museum held its 15th annual PaleoFest.