June 18, 2019 | 72° F

Rutgers geology museum invites community to learn about fossils and dinosaurs at late night event

Photo by Ashley Fearon |

Families that attended Wednesday’s event at the Rutgers Geology Museum had a chance to take part in a slew of dinosaur themed activities, including arts and crafts projects and games. The museum is located on Old Queens.

This Wednesday, Rutgers students and families visited the Rutgers Geology Museum to learn about geology and paleontology at their Fossils and Dinosaurs themed event. 

The event was run by the museum’s Associate Directors Dr. Patricia Irizarry and Dr. Lauren Neitzke Adamo, along with interns, graduate students and undergraduate students.

There were several fossil-themed activities for children to participate in including a game where they matched pictures of animal tracks to the animals that made them, a station with stamps shaped like the tracks and papers to decorate and a table with dinosaur fossils and parts of modern-day animals for the children to try to differentiate between.

“It’s called ‘What Am I?’” Irizarry said. “They have to think about if it’s extinct or is it living, and what part of the animal it is or what it’s used for.” 

Irizarry said it is especially important for children to draw comparisons between animals that lived long ago and those that are around today. For instance, an eagle's talon may resemble a dinosaur’s claw. The real identities were written on the back of cards for visitors to flip over and compare their answers with.

The museum focuses primarily on New Jersey’s geology and natural history. Its collections include thousands of rare fluorescent minerals, some of which are only found in New Jersey. Some of these fluorescent minerals are displayed in a dark room so that visitors can best see how they glow.

One of the main artifacts in the museum is a near complete mastodon skeleton that was found in Maddington, New Jersey in 1869 and was brought to Rutgers in 1896. At around 10 feet tall, mastodons were among the largest animals to roam North America during the Ice Age until going extinct about 10,000 years ago.

Other notable artifacts in the museum include the mummy and sarcophagus of an Egyptian priestess who lived between 320 and 20 B.C. 

The mummy, which is on loan from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, was originally given to Rutgers by a Dutch missionary, according to the Rutgers Geology Museum’s website.

The museum is located on the second floor of Geology Hall, which is part of Old Queen’s on College Avenue. Because of its location, Geology Hall is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The museum was founded by George H. Cook, after whom Cook campus is named, in 1872.

The building’s historical status means that the museum cannot put a sign on it. 

Irizarry said this means that many Rutgers students do not even know where the Geology Museum is or that it exists at all. Irizarry contrasted it to the Zimmerli Art Museum, which is well-marked and therefore well known throughout Rutgers

One of the late night event’s most enthusiastic participants was 4-year-old dinosaur-lover Grant, who according to his mother Erin Meehan, ran into the museum and yelled “Awesome!” 

The children at the late night event also did dinosaur-themed coloring activities and puzzles. Older children also made moveable paper dinosaurs out of metal brads.

Irizarry said that the museum’s monthly late night events are important not only because they bring people into the museum to see the exhibits, but because they give Rutgers students one-on-one time with the University’s geologists and scientists. 

Visitors can even bring in geological specimens that they want a geologist's help identifying, like things that they may have dug up in their backyards.

For the past six years, the museum has held late nights events on the first Wednesday of every month of the academic year, each with a theme chosen by the students working at the museum. November's theme will be Astronomy, and December’s theme will be Deep Sea. 

The museum is also open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays.

“This is an opportunity for not just students, but families, kids and the whole Rutgers community,” Adamo said.

Jane Keller

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