Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM
STRATIGRAPHY BY OSMOSIS: LOCAL FOSSILS AS A FRAMEWORK FOR ENQUIRY
New exhibit halls developed by the Texas Memorial Museum in January 2004 include a broad spectrum of innovations aimed to stimulate scientific enquiry. One innovation is the Discovery drawers located near the paleontologists work station in the new Hall of Geology. Here the visitor can locate school or home on a geology map, key to a stratigraphic section, and drawers full of identified fossils. Color coding guides the stratigraphic journey. By encouraging the visitor to investigate which fossils may be found in their own local area we set the scene for further enquiry. Why are fossils from my school different from those at home? Why do the oysters in my school keep their shell but the clams do not? Other drawers are topic based to expand the visitors knowledge of and interest in paleontology, and Recent marine environments. For example, 'Oysters on the half shell' is an evolutionary sequence of oysters. This interactive exhibit shows how informative fossils can be and perhaps encourage stewardship of fossils in local outcrops. The invertebrate repository is home to almost 4 million specimens. Much of the Texas collection is held in stratigraphic order, making it relatively easy to sample for this project, when coupled with an online database linked to a GIS system. Initial preparation included selection of the relevant fossils representing the local stratigraphic section. The identified specimens were cleaned and located in drawers lined thick foam. Specimens presented in drawers allowed far more of the collection to reach the public than in the past.Teachers can bring class groups to the exhibit and discuss the specimens with their students. The paleontologist on duty uses specimens to explain a wide variety of concepts. Further information and digital imagery will be available on-line to encourage continuing investigation after the Museum visit. Collaboration between the artistic designer and collections staff produced an inviting and accurate exhibit. The older cabinetry re-cycled from the repository presents a non-sterile and inviting setting. Drawers are left partly open to encourage adult visitors. Ensuring conservation, stability, safety and visibility of specimens within the confines of antique furniture was a challenge. The stress of constant opening and closing of drawers led to ingenious methods for specimen preservation.