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Unearthed! Fossils in the Museum Collections

Paleontology in southern California is featured in "Unearthed: Fossils in the Museum Collections," a special exhibit opening February 21 at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands. The exhibit, mounted in the museum’s Hall of History galleries, is free with general admission.

The exhibit will feature fossils from the extinct Columbian mammoth, American mastodon, bison and long-horned bison, ground sloth, camel, and horse, all of which lived in Southern California during the Ice Ages. Additional exhibit cases will feature fossils from ancient cats, dogs, and horses. Unearthed will also showcase a recreated curator’s office and preparation lab so visitors can catch a glimpse of how fossils are discovered, cleaned, mended, and cataloged into museum collections. A mastodon humerus (upper front leg bone) and a huge ammonoid (an ocean-dwelling cephalapod that became extinct 65 million years ago) will be displayed on pedestals so visitors can touch actual fossils.

"The county museum has been conducting research in paleontology since the museum was founded in the 1950s," said Senior Curator of Geological Sciences Kathleen Springer. "Our fossil collections contain more than 1.5 million specimens. Unearthed will give museum visitors a chance to see examples of the spectacular finds we continue to unearth from southern California and the Southwest."

When museum patrons visit Unearthed, they will also have the opportunity to see a wide range of other fossils on exhibit in the permanent galleries. The lower ramp leading into the Hall of North American Mammals has a series of cases that explain how fossils can be used to determine past climates and the ages of rocks. Using fossil horses, cats, camels, rhinoceros, antelope, llama, bighorn sheep, and mammoth, visitors can see how these animals have changed through time.

In the Hall of Mammals are exhibits of perfectly preserved microscopic insects that lived in today’s Calico Mountains about 15 million years ago. These tiny fossils have such remarkable preservation that you can even see traces of spider web clinging to the spinnerets of ancient spiders. Magnifying lenses and scanning electron microscope images enlarge these specimens for viewing.

A collection of petrified wood is shown on the museum’s courtyard landing. These colorful slabs preserve the structure of tree trunks and bark; the wood has been replaced with agate, jasper, and other colorful minerals.

The exhibit ramp cases leading up from the lobby toward the ornithology halls are also full of fossils. Here you will see a replica of California’s only dinosaur tracks, an assemblage of fossil animals that died in a cloud of volcanic ash near Needles 11 million years ago, and Ice Age fossils found at localities in Southern California including Murrieta, Temecula, Victorville, and Hemet. Turning the corner on the ramp leading up to the halls of land and water birds, visitors will even be able to learn about early flying reptiles and ancestral birds.

"Visiting the museum to see Unearthed along with our other exhibits of fossils will allow visitors see the results of ongoing museum research," said Springer. "The exhibits should also drive home the point that, while dinosaurs are fossils, all fossils are definitely not dinosaurs!"

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 (adult), $5 (student or senior), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under 5 and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free, and the facility is handicapped-accessible. Lunch and snacks are available at the museum’s Garden Café between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, visit or call (909) 307-2669 / TDD/TTY: (909) 792-1462.


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San Bernardino County Museum - (909) 307-2669 - 2024 Orange Tree Lane, Redlands, California 92374 TDD/TYY: (909) 792-1462

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