At Ohio State, there is no better place to experience “time and change” than the Orton Geological Museum in Orton Hall on the Oval. One of campus’s oldest buildings, Orton Hall houses eons of geological treasures and offers the chance to see fossils, rocks, and minerals collected from Ohio and all over the world.
1. The Orton Hall Geological Museum’s catalog contains more than 54,300 entries of specimens. Many of the entries refer to boxes of specimens, so in actuality there are more than 500,000 rocks, minerals and fossils. Visitors can spend hours tracing geological history through time, starting with the oldest fossil on display, a Precambrian stromatolite from Wyoming, that is around 2 billion years old. In the museum you’ll also see many brachiopods, the most common fossil found in Ohio.
2. Say hello to Jeff! Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a skeleton of a 7 foot tall giant ground sloth (pictured at the top of the article). The skeleton earned the nickname “Jeff” from its scientific name, Megaloynx jeffersoni. Megalonyx means “great claw” and jeffersoni refers to President Thomas Jefferson, the first person to bring attention to the species. Giant sloths roamed Ohio during the Pleistocene Epoch from 2 million to 13,000 years ago.
3. Ohio used to be Down Under! Currently, Ohio is situated above the equator, with the 40 degree north line actually running right through Ohio State’s campus. However, back in the day, Ohio was located 20 degrees south of the equator—where Australia is today. We now know that Ohio was covered by a tropical ocean during that time, due to the many fish fossils in the area. Stop by the museum to see the Dunkleosteus terrelli, a 20 foot long carnivorous fish that lived in Ohio during the Devonian period. Museum curator Dale Gnidovec jokes, “The Devonian period was not a good time to go swimming!”
4. Part of the School of Earth Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Orton Geological Museum is a great resource for students. Students in geology, biology, civil engineering, art, education and creative writing classes use the exhibits to learn about history and for inspiration. Not only do the students come to the museum, but the museum comes to the students, offering guest speakers to lecture a class about geological subjects. Some of the current lectures include: Introducing the Dinosaurs; Teeth, Jaws & Claws – The Carnivorous Dinosaurs and Why Birds Are Dinosaurs; and A Long Time Ago and Far Away – The Geological History of Ohio.
5. The museum is open free to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is visited by about 13,000 people per year. Visitors can explore the museum on their own, but guided tours for groups can be arranged by contacting Dale Gnidovec, who gives tours to about 2,000 people a year, including many school and scout groups. The tour takes guests on a journey back through time and shows them the wonders of geology.
By Molly Kime, ASC Communications