Museum Center Fossil Unboxing Excites UC Professors

Jan 14, 2019

A University of Minnesota fossil collection - with many specimens gathered by a Cincinnati paleontologist - will make its permanent home at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The unboxing and cataloging of tens of thousands of fossils is expected to take three years.

Two-hundred-sixty boxes were delivered to the Geier Collections & Research Facility in the middle of December.

"It's like Christmas every day for the next few years," says Museum Center Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology and University of Cincinnati adjunct professor Dr. Brenda Hunda.

She explains many universities and institutions are not capable of caring for such a scientifically valuable collection like this one. It had been housed at the University of Minnesota since the mid to late 1800s, and the university chose to move the fossils to Cincinnati where they could be better cared for.

Within the larger shipped boxes are lots of smaller boxes containing fossils, some microscopic. Dr. Brenda Hunda says what will take a long time is doing research on each specimen. She is an expert on trilobites, but on other invertebrates may need some assistance.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Hunda says the collection dovetailed well with fossils already at the Cincinnati Museum Center and included specimens found by Edward Ulrich, a Cincinnatian and invertebrate paleontologist specializing in Paleozoic fossils who died in 1944.

Dr. Glenn Storrs, associate vice president of collections and research and Withrow Farny curator of vertebrate paleontology, knew which box he wanted to open first. "I said, 'Oh, I know that the sabre tooth tiger is in this box. I'm going to just open this up.' I couldn't wait. Even though I was trying to focus on some of the older things first."

Dr. Glenn Storrs checks out possibly his favorite fossil from this new collection, a saber tooth cat.

The smallest fossils in the collection could be micro mammal teeth and the largest might be a rhinoceros skeleton from Nebraska.

Eventually the collection will be available to see online. Some pieces may be displayed at the Museum Center.