Museum holds Identification Day for visitors’ rocks, artifacts

Claire Allbright

The Austin public brought natural objects to the Texas Memorial Museum to be identified by experts Sunday afternoon.

Senior administrative associate of the museum Laura Naski said the museum has hosted Identification Day for several years to bring together UT graduate students, Texas Parks and Wildlife and several other organizations to identify personal specimens and educate the public about natural science.

“Identification Day is our contribution for Austin Museum Day,” Naski said. “We are offering experts in archeology, paleontology, geology, ethology, as well as herpetology, so the public is coming in and bringing in their finds, and the experts are explaining to them what they have.”

Grant Gipson, a geologist and employee of the Texas Committee on Environmental Quality, said he identified a 1200 carat topez specimen from Texas.

“We saw an exceptional topaz specimen, something unique in its size and clarity,” Gipson said. “I had never seen anything like that ever in my life.”

Austin resident Leslie Bauer brought a piece of jewelry to the museum, which an archeologist identified as a 3000-year-old Native American amulet.

“This was something that a friend gave to me,” Bauer said. “It’s probably from an Alaskan tribe, and it’s bone.”

Austin resident Ron Kardz said he brought in a knife to be identified and dated.

“This is part of an obsidian knife,” Kardz said. “It came from somewhere in western Nevada or eastern California maybe in the range of the Punu tribe. It could have been a very long time ago — probably before the Spaniards got to that area, so it could be pre-15th century.”

Logan West, doctoral student in the Jackson School of Geosciences, said he volunteered at Identification Day though a student program.

“I work with a program in the environmental science institute called the Scientist Residents, and they have a number of efforts mostly with outreach between
graduate student scientists at UT and any public community outreach that’s possible,” West said.

In addition to experts providing identification, researchers from the biodiversity collection provided visitors information about fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Ethology collection manager Adam Cohen, who maintains the museum collections, led a hands-on lesson to educate visitors about fish species.

“My goal is just to expose people to the diversity of fish,” Cohen said. “I’m responsible for maintaining the collections and making sure they are safe and the data is held tightly together so things are going to last through time.”