Friday, 20 September 2013

Unearthing the Paleontology Museum

This summer I was fortunate enough to visit the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. Both museums were fascinating and inspiring as I was able to explore prehistoric fossils and fascinating anthropological finds, learning about ancient life and other cultures throughout my summer away from classes. 

My enjoyment of these museums piqued a new interest in me for finding museums at the U of A and made it abundantly clear that I should be doing a better job of visiting the museums that are located at the very school that I'm studying at. Throughout the school year I'll be dropping by the various museums and collections on campus to see some of the fascinating and educational things that are housed at the U of A.

Inspired partially by my travels to Drumheller and interest in the new Dino 101 course, I chose the Paleontology Museum as my first stop. Tucked away in the basement of the Earth Sciences Building, the University of Alberta Paleontology Museum showcases some of the U of A's greatest hidden treasures. The Museum showcases a wide array of fossils, spanning a period of over 600 million years and is a place of both research and entertainment. 

The Paleontology Museum is located at the end of a long hallway in the basement of the Earth Sciences Building. From the entrance to the hallway you can see the striking head of the dunkleosteus, a prehistoric fish which welcomes you to the Museum with a massive grin on its giant plated head. 

Once you make it past the menacing dunkleosteus skull, you enter a room filled with a wondrous array of fossils and reconstructed skeletons as well as two tables suited perfectly for quiet study or the contemplation of prehistoric life and earth's evolution. My eyes darted around the room as I tried to take in the sights all at once, shocked and delighted that campus contained such incredible treasures. 

The walls of the Paleontology Museum are adorned with glass cases which offer a crash course on changes to the earth over time, delivering glimpses from periods spanning over 500 million years. Each showcase provides information about a different period in the geologic time scale, giving insight about and examples of life ranging from Precambrian Time (prior to 542 million years ago) to the Quaternary Period (1.8 millions years to present). Each step you take through the museum offers a brief glimpse into a different time periods, allowing you to learn more about the history of the earth while marvelling at the sheer awesomeness of seeing prehistoric fossils. Featuring a hands-on section, a small Q&A section, and a number of informative diagrams and representations, the Museum at once offers knowledge and insight at every turn.

As a political science student, the knowledge offered at the Paleontology Museum was a far departure from the kind of learning that I am accustomed to. Despite this, the Museum presents its information in an accessible and informative way that is equally educational and fascinating. The Paleontology Museum and other museums around campus provide students with the opportunity to extend our learning beyond the borders of our degree and even beyond our faculty. 

While I may have visited the Paleontology museum to see impressive tyrannosaurus and triceratops heads, I easily found myself staying for the wealth of knowledge that surrounded me in the display cases around the room. It was obvious to me that the Paleontology Museum serves as a place where students from all faculties can visit, learn, and possibly even show off to visitors at the U of A.

When I exited the Museum, I grabbed a piece of pink granite from a “help yourself” bin located next to the door. That's right, you are actually invited to take a piece of the museum home with you! For free! Free! But getting back on track, while the small piece of rock (now sitting on my bookshelf) doesn't look very impressive at first glance, it will serve as a reminder to continuously seek knowledge of all sorts during my time at the U of A.

I'll be continuing my search for interesting museums and collections on campus. You'll have to wait and see which one I'll visit next but if you have any ideas for me or even if you want to join me on my next visit, give me a shout. Come back soon to see what's next!


About the Author

Hello there! I'm Trenton and I'm super excited to be a YouAlberta Student Communicator. Though I spend a staggering amount of my time thinking about a syllabus for an imaginary Batman 101 class, my major is actually Political Science. I love to read, eat, and play around in Photoshop (sometimes all at once). If you're ever looking for someone to debate about a variety of nerdy topics, I'm your man.

It is my hope to tell a wide array of stories about the sides of campus life and student life that may not be immediately apparent. In doing this, I want to showcase the diversity, passion, and community at the U of A that constantly inspires me. My time at the U of A has been truly trans-formative and, as I enter my final year here, I can't wait to listen to and tell stories about the University and its students.


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