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 www.sbcountymuseum.org
or call (909) 307-2669 / TDD/TTY: (909) 792-1462.