Paper No. 3-7
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
THE AURORA FOSSIL MUSEUM: A MODEL SHOWCASE OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE CITIZEN SCIENTIST
Citizen scientists make vitally important contributions to paleontology, and historically, such contributions, often under noticed, play a critical role in the overall function of a museum. This is prominently evident at the Aurora Fossil Museum (AFM) in Aurora, Beaufort County, North Carolina. Since its inception in 1976, the Aurora Fossil Museum Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit 501c (3) science education center, has been subjected to various changes, and yet avocational involvement remains constant. AFM was founded an admission-free informal science museum showcasing the extensive paleontological discoveries from a neighboring phosphate mine. With one full-time and four part-time employees, an active Board of Directors, and dedicated volunteers, AFM continues to educate visitors through a variety of venues and has an annual impact (sans
social media) of nearly 15,000 onsite and 52,000 offsite visits. Recent data reveal visitors from 90 of 100 North Carolina counties, every U.S. state, and six continents.
Over the past four decades, AFM has advanced its reputation for science education. This would not have developed without the dedication of avocational paleontologists, fossil collectors, and science enthusiasts. Their contributions have not only sustained this small private museum, but also expanded the paleontological record of North Carolina. This dedication highlights the centrality of AFM in the avocational/professional dynamic. It also reinforces the capacity for citizen scientists dedicated to advancing paleontology and education to promote careers in the natural sciences through informal and yet engaging settings. Future activities by avocational paleontologists at AFM will further strengthen the museum’s foundation and expand its reach and resources.