Paper No. 41-3
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM
THE RUTGERS GEOLOGY MUSEUM AND ITS ROLE IN THE EVOLUTION OF THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY GEOSCIENCE COLLEGE CLASSROOM
The Geology Museum at Rutgers University is one of the earliest examples in the United States of a natural history museum dedicated to scientific instruction and display of the university “cabinets” or collections. It is unique in that the basic structural components of the building and museum are in tact and that the historic collections are still housed in the original space. The collections have played an important role in shaping geoscience education at the university and date back to 1830 when the student run Society for Natural History requested funds from the University for a cabinet and textbooks to store and study the specimens they collected as part of their course work. In that same year, Lewis C. Beck started teaching geology at the University and further added to the “cabinet” of minerals through his fieldwork as the mineralogist for the New York Natural History Survey. As college curriculums started to incorporate more courses in geology, there arose an increasing demand for public access to these collections. The strong campus presence of the Society for Natural History and the designation of Land Grant Status at Rutgers University in 1864 were instrumental in establishing a scientific school and demanding a space in which to conduct the systematic study of the relevant natural history curiosities. The museum was completed in 1872 under the director of George H. Cook and the study, arrangement, and classification of the collections became the focal point of many of the geology courses and faculty members until the early 1900’s. Geology was officially named a department in 1931 and the primarily teaching based department grew as more courses and faculty were added. The museum remained an integral part of the department as courses were held in the building and outreach programs and exhibits were created. In 1977 the Geology Department was relocated from inside the museum to another campus and college courses were no longer held within the building. Today the museum maintains an active role in the education of not only college students but also generations of K-12 students through its various educational and outreach programs and events.