GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 155-8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MOSSBRUCKER, Matthew T.1, TURNER, Bryan W.1 and BAKKER, Robert T.2, (1)Morrison Natural History Museum, 501 Colorado Highway 8, Post Office Box 564, Morrison, CO 80465, (2)Department of Paleontology, Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030-1799,

Communicating how fossils are collected, cleaned, and put on display for public view is best done in an open fossil preparation lab. While a common display for large museums to encourage visitors to peer into the “fishbowl” windows of a working paleontology lab, direct communication with the public is limited. The paleontology lab at the Morrison Natural History Museum has been designed to invite the public to step inside the lab and develop a better understanding of how fossils are prepared and what information can be gleaned from the endeavor.

Museum workers communicate how fossils are analyzed and used in museum displays. Interpreters work in tandem with preparators as paleontological samples are examined. Additionally, this contact allows workers to directly answer questions from the visiting public. With assistance, the public is encouraged to use a pneumatic tool to remove matrix on a section of a fossil block that is assumed to be sterile.

Through visitor involvement and discussion, skeptical visitors can learn how fossil bone is identified from rock and how fossils are reconstructed. This process of inviting visitors to participate with fossil preparation allows for a direct connection into paleontological investigations. Additionally, when interested visitors, aged 16 and older, volunteer with the museum, we provide educational opportunities and experiences that include laboratory preparation, field collection and observation, and encourage them to actively engage with the public as educators themselves. We have found that this exposure to the earth sciences increases interest in fields related to geology, paleontology, ecology, and biology.