In a corner of the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota, 11-year-old Addison Ritenour peered into a display case at the little monkey with a big story.
“He looks like he hadn’t been eating,” Addison said. “Because he’s very skinny and small.”
After decades stuck in an air duct, the so-called “Dayton’s Monkey” has a temporary new home.
The mummified remains, discovered in April during the renovation of the former department store in downtown Minneapolis, went on display Thursday at the museum in downtown St. Paul. On loan from the Dayton’s Project development team, it will be in the lobby until Sept. 3.
Biologists believe the creature was a squirrel monkey, a species often sold in pet stores during the 1960s before owning such an animal was made illegal. Its body was mummified naturally due to the warm, dry air moving through the department store’s vents.
“We don’t have a lot of information about this specimen, and that makes it difficult to tell a comprehensive story about it,” said Laurie Fink, a Science Museum vice president, in a news release. “Our scientists are experts in caring for specimens like this one, though, and we are pleased to be able to care for it properly and provide some scientific and historical context for people who have been following its story.”
Though the monkey’s story remains a mystery, theories are floating around about how it made its way to Dayton’s ceiling.
Some say it was likely smuggled out of the store’s pet shop and returned a few days later after it proved to be a less-than-ideal roommate. Others, including Gov. Mark Dayton — a member of the department store clan — say the monkey escaped from a rain-forest exhibit that featured live animals on the store’s eighth floor.
To see the mummified monkey in the display case, visitors must press a button to unfog the glass — a feature added to be respectful to those who may not want to see it, said Science Museum spokeswoman Sarah Imholte.
It didn’t bother 8-year-old Matias Torniainen, who was on a field trip to the museum. “I thought it was cool, not creepy at all,” he said.
Fascination with the “Dayton’s Monkey” has spread across social media since the remains were found, even spurring the creation of a Twitter account in its name that exchanged messages with an account for the now-world-famous raccoon that scaled a St. Paul skyscraper Tuesday.
Like the risk-taking raccoon, the small monkey must have had an adventurous personality, 7-year-old Thomas Warren said.
“He must have been a good climber,” he said.