How do you get a museum science department really excited? Showing us pictures of turtles is one way, but an even better method is shipping us boxes of amazing fossils. The shipment we opened yesterday were sent to us by the Field Museum of Natural History. They are specimens on loan for our upcoming exhibit: Secrets of Fossil Lake (opening November 21).
The fossils were shipped to us in six huge boxes, some long and flat, but others more traditionally box-shaped (and huge enough to take up a lot of space in our collections area!).
Inside the boxes were... more boxes! For these priceless fossils, you can't be too careful with packing. The level of expertise in the packing job was certainly impressive.
The specimens for this exhibition are truly spectacular. Both plant and animal fossils were preserved with high levels of detail. The curator of science at the Bruce Museum, Daniel Kspeka, carefully cataloged each specimen we uncovered.
Also very important when unpacking fossils: Checking them to make certain there was no damage during shipping. These fossils are approximately 52 million years old. They've lasted a long time and it's important that we make sure they're preserved for future generations as well.
Some of the fossils were so big that they could only be moved by two of us working together. Others were so small that they could fit in a pocket (though we don't recommend carrying fossils this way!). Fossil Lake is famous for its many fish fossils, and these are two of the smaller representatives.
This fossil is my personal favorite from Fossil Lake. This is a gar fish whose scales have partially scattered during fossilization. It looks like some sort of modern art piece!
As we unpacked the fossils we placed them in a temporary "home" in our collections. Soon they'll be put on display, but for now they will remain in storage room number 2.
This specimen threw us for a loop. This snake fossil is actually a cast, a replica made of a fossil. However, this replica was so well-made that it almost had us fooled! The cast was set into real stone and the paint job was so precise that our collections manager had to look it over with a magnifying glass to tell that it wasn't the real thing. If you come by the exhibit in late November or after, you can see for yourself how convincing it is.
At the end of the day we had several shelves of fossils waiting to be put on display... and many stacks of the boxes they came in. We probably won't be having that much fun in the science department for a while, that is, until the exhibit goes up!
- Kate Dzikiewicz, Paul Griswold Howes Fellow