Fossils of all shapes, sizes and ages were brought to the Texas Memorial Museum on Sunday by families, students and other individuals curious about identifying the objects.
As part of the annual Austin Museum Day, the natural history museum on campus opened its doors to visitors free of charge on Sunday for its annual Identification Day. Austin Museum Day is an annual day in which participating museums provide free admission, exhibits and events to the public, according to the Austin Museum Partnership website.
“We wanted to get people excited, interested and appreciative of the natural world,” said Pamela Owen, associate director of the museum. “We encourage being fascinated with weird rocks and interesting bones you might find.”
Owen said the museum has hosted its Identification Day for 19 years as a part of the event. Other on-campus museums also participated in the Austin Museum Day celebrations, including the Blanton Museum of Art and the Mexic-Arte Museum.
Owen said the museum was expecting around 800 visitors on Sunday. Of those visitors, Owen said half of the visitors usually bring in objects and the other half take advantage of the free admission on a day which the museum is usually not open.
“There’s nothing better than getting to interact with someone one-on-one, especially over the natural world,” Owen said. “It’s also good that people realize that the scientists aren’t all wearing lab coats.”
A total of 14 scientists, including archeologists, geologists, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontologists helped identify natural objects brought in by visitors at the museum.
“All we’re doing is just telling people about the things they find in their backyards or on trips,” paleontologist Ed Elliott said. “But when you tell them the things they bring in are sometimes over 100 million years old, they think it’s bizarre.”
Owen said the fossils brought in can range from ice age remains, such as mammoth teeth and chunks of ice age horses, to modern bones and teeth from possums, raccoons or bobcats.
Nursing sophomore Jeremy Kubos said he attended the day because he had a “weird-looking” stone he wanted to identify. He said he learned that it was an old shell fossil from over 90 million years ago.
“I have classes all throughout the week, so having this on a Sunday was perfect,” Kubos said. “It was an awesome experience. I need to go back when I can.”