Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

“It’s the closest thing possible to time travel.”

If you’re friends with us on Facebook or Twitter, you’re probably used to seeing unending streams of adorable children digging for fossils in the Discovery Room. But why should they have all the fun? Every year, the museum offers an adult-only fossil field trip for Paleozoic buffs, fossil collectors, paleontology enthusiasts and everyone in between. Cool, right? You can thank our sponsors—Arvest Bank, Republic Bank & Trust and Fowler Honda.

  

Here’s the 411: Your two-day journey begins at the Sam Noble Museum Friday, Sept. 19. Our invertebrate paleontology curator, Steve Westrop, will lead participants into Oklahoma’s Paleozoic past with a look at some of Oklahoma’s finest fossilized specimens. Then, on Saturday, we hit the field.

 

On Friday, see some of the museum’s finest specimens like this pentremites

“On this trip we’ll go back to the Devonian Period, about 400 million years ago, when Oklahoma was covered by a shallow sea,” Westrop explained. “We’ll collect the shells of extinct animals that lived on a muddy sea bottom.”

Even though this event is adults-only, finder’s keepers trumps all. Whatever you find on the dig, you get to take home. Talk about a conversation piece! How often do you get the chance to hold millions of years between your fingers?

A specimen collected on a previous Fossil Field Trip

“It’s the closest thing possible to time travel,” Westrop said. “We can’t actually go to the past but if you know where to look, evidence of the past is all around us.”

 So, what should you bring for the big trip? Comfortable shoes, casual clothes, a sack lunch, snacks, plenty of water and—of course—your sense of adventure. We will leave the museum at 9 a.m. and return around 4 p.m., so brace yourself for a day of nonstop discovery.

 

Past participants dig up prehistoric sea life

According to Westrop, participants will leave the trip with several interesting fossils and an appreciation of how life and environments change over time. But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget the wealth of memories and insanely cool story you’ll have to share over your new conversational piece. Are you ready for a little time travel? Enroll today!

Accreditation - What’s the Big Deal?

In the United States alone, museums employ more than 400,000 people and directly contribute $21 billion to the economy. Impressive, right? Despite these striking statistics, museums are still struggling. In fact, more than two-thirds of museums reported economic distress in 2012. 

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This sad dino by Roamin’ Doodles understands the pain.

Fortunately, there is something museum’s can do. The American Alliance of Museums offers accreditation to institutions dedicated to excellence and high professional standards. But financial motives aren’t the only reason a museum would apply for accreditation. 

According to the AAM website, some of the benefits of accreditation include: 

→ Increased credibility with donors and funding agencies

→ A clear sense of purpose and understanding

→ A valuable tool in lobbying local and state governments

→ Increased level of professionalism

→ Improved relationships with other museums

Sounds great, right? Of all the natural history museums in the United States, only 8 percent are accredited – the Sam Noble Museum included. That’s right! In 2014, the Sam Noble Museum was awarded accreditation for the fourth consecutive time. Of course, not all institutions who apply are accepted, which is why this is such a significant achievement. 

“This means the museum continues to meet the National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums,” explained museum director Michael Mares.

The museum endured a rigorous application process that consisted of a year of self-study and site visits by peer reviewers. It is not uncommon for the process of accreditation to take up to three years.

So, what does this mean for you?

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It means we are dedicated to preserving Oklahoma’s cultural and natural history, and we’ve been commended for our efforts to do so. Stronger relationships with other museums could also mean more loans for research and more traveling exhibits. As you can see, accreditation is a big deal. Don’t belive us? Check out this congratulatory video from AAM president Ford Bell.

The certificate of accreditation, framed and matted just beside Redbud Café, is on display for all Oklahomans to see, so they can continue to have confidence in the nationally recognized quality of their museum.

Inside the Treasure Box: Week Eleven

We’ve planned a “larger then life” finale for our ITTB series today. You could even say it is a story of Jurassic proportions. There’s a good chance that you’ve seen the object of today’s post if you’ve visited the museum, but before we reveal the paleontology department’s most prized specimen, here is a little backstory:

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The Sauroposeidon

In 1994, vertebrate paleontology curator Richard Cifelli and his team found four vertebrae of one Sauroposeidon in southeastern Oklahoma. Sauroposeidon fossils are common in Oklahoma, many of which come from a quarry located in Atoka.

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Each vertebra of the Sauroposeidon measured four feet or more in length. The bones were so enormous that Cifelli himself was unsure what he had uncovered at first. The name Sauroposeidon actually stems from the Greek word “saurus” (meaning lizard) and the mythological god Poseidon. The names refers to Poseidon’s nickname as “Earthshaker,” implying that the Sauroposeidon's weight and size was enough to move mountains.

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Poseidon, god of the sea and maker of earthquakes.

Sauroposeidon seems to be a relative of Brachiosaurus, and like Brachiosaurus, probably held its neck upright like a giraffe, rather than out in front of it like the Apatosaurus. Sauroposeidon would have been much larger than Brachiosaurus, however. Cifelli and former student Matt Wedel believe Sauroposeidon would have been nearly 100 feet long and stood some 60 feet tall. It could have stood flat-footed and looked into a sixth story window. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the Sauroposeidon as the world’s tallest dinosaur.

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Sauroposeidon Scale

Unlike other items featured in the ITTB series, which are too fragile for public display, the Sauroposeidon can be seen from just inside the Great Hall, peeking out from the Noble Corporation and Noble Energy Orientation Gallery. When it comes to fossils, go big or go home, right? We enjoyed sharing a glimpse into our collections and exhibits with you and hope this series has inspired you to visit and discover for yourself the specimens and artifacts featured in this series.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

The Big Reveal

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Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program

Back in May, the Sam Noble Museum released a most exciting announcement  on our blog, detailing a prestigious contest for conservation.  We diligently urged our followers and fans to vote for our deteriorating treasure, a swatch of Native American lace from the 1400s, and promised to keep our faithful readers updated with the latest news.

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The Spiro lace 

For two months, the museum’s staff sat on pins and needles, eager to claim the attention and aid that could accompany a place in the 10. After long days of waiting for that fateful email, the results finally arrived on August 6. 

The Oklahoma Cultural Heritage Trust recognized the Sam Noble Museum as having one of Oklahoma’s top 10 endangered artifacts. In addition to receiving the Cultural Heritage Stewardship Award for earlier campaign progress, the Sam Noble Museum will receive free lodging to attend the Oklahoma Museums Association Annual Conference in Enid, Oklahoma. The museum will also be recognized at the OMA Awards Program on Friday, September 27.

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Top 25 finalists receiving the Cultural Heritage Stewardship Award

As you recall from our first post, the Spiro lace, from 1400 AD, was discovered buried beneath Craig Mound at the historic Native American Spiro Mound site in eastern Oklahoma by a University of Oklahoma excavation team operating under the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s. The Spiro Mounds are known as one of the most significant ceremonial sites in North America and were actively used from 800 to 1450 AD.

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The Spiro Mounds

Since then, many cultural artifacts have been recovered from beneath the mounds, including cups, pottery, tools and textiles like the Spiro lace.  The lace survived in part because of its proximity to copper plates beneath the mound, whose metallic properties served as a preservation tool for hundreds of years.

“It looks like they [Oklahoma Native Americans] had many clothing and elaborate costumes we know nothing about,” said Elsbeth Dowd, the former collection manager of the Sam Noble Museum’s archaeology department and current museum registrar.

According to Dr. Dowd, this fragment of lace survives as Oklahoma’s oldest textile and offers previously unknown information about the way Native Americans lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, when this piece was discovered many decades ago, as a good-intentioned effort to prevent further deterioration and tearing, the lace was glued to a yellow matboard.

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The lace glued to matboard

Current preservation efforts are geared at safely removing the lace from the matboard, as the acidic properties of the board will gradually wear on the lace and inflict further damage. Additionally, with the lace removed, archaeologists like Dowd would be able to conduct a more informative analysis of the lace using methods such as fiber analysis and 3D scanning. 

“Being able to conserve this to give people access to the lace would really be great for research,” Dowd confirmed.

Thanks to your votes, the museum is one step closer to obtaining the preservation care so desperately needed. Through the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program, the Sam Noble Museum hopes to gain further recognition and support for its conversation efforts. It is evident that Oklahomans care deeply for their rich history, which is precisely why the museum is dedicated to preserving it for generations to come.

If you would like to support the Sam Noble Museum’s preservation efforts or any of its other programs, operations, and development of exhibits, click the donate button on the museum’s homepage.

The Journey of the Shells

To many, science may seem to be a strictly objective discipline, black-and-white and void of emotion. Sure, it takes passion, but science is seldom regarded as possessing sentimentality. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Through its ability to reveal passions and spark inspiration, science has proven its ability to resonate on a most intimate level, as illustrated by Vicki Jackson and 150 drawers of seashells.

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It all began on Sunday, July 28, 2013, when Jackson visited the Sam Noble Museum, carrying with her some 2,700 carefully boxed seashells. The collection was not hers, but her late father’s. Although Jackson’s generous donation of the collection to the museum’s recent invertebrates department is in and of itself a marvelous tale, it is the story behind the shells that makes this gift extraordinary.

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Jackson believes that her father, Perry Yates Jackson Jr., began collecting shells after attending the Naval Academy many years ago. Since then, his compilation has expanded to include shells from both familiar and exotic locals: Hawaii, Florida, Virginia, California, Texas, Haiti, New Guinea, The West Indies and Seychelles, among others. The global nature of the collection stems largely from Perry Jackson Jr.’s service with the United States Navy.

 “The Navy allowed him to go all over the place, and wherever they docked, if he had the time, he would shell hunt. It was almost a form of meditation,” Jackson explained.

 Perry Jackson Jr. was not only an avid collector, but also a dedicated organizer. Until his passing in 1998, he maintained a meticulous catalogue of each and every item he recovered. According to Katrina Menard, curator of the Sam Noble Museum’s recent invertebrates collection, this degree of care is almost as rare as the shells themselves.

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