We developed this virtual museum as a support for our introductory laboratory course in paleontology (VSU's GEOL 1111, Principles of Historical Geology). It is not our intention that this site be complete or be a stand-alone introduction to the subject. It is tailored to our students' needs, and its range is restricted by our budget and our time. However, we hope that it will be useful to many other students, formal and informal. We have tried to keep the presentation flexible enough so that high school and middle school classes might find this site of use in their curricula.
Although most of our invertebrate specimens are real fossils, many of the vertebrate exhibits in our virtual museum are casts of priceless fossils from national museums, universities and private collections. If these were the original fossils, the collection would be worth many millions of dollars and be completely out of our reach. The casts are made with painstaking care, not just to protect the original, but to make the copy an exact replica. Every line, suture, crack and fragment is preserved. We see these specimens as works of art as well as scientifically exciting objects. Where the exhibit is a cast, it is so noted in the comments.
Our photographs of the fossils show multiple views. In the spirit of minimizing download time, we give you the choice to see more views by clicking the "See More" button, or not, as you like. Some pages have a drawing of the animal's skeleton showing the fossil bone in red. Any part of the drawings shown in blue indicates non-skeleton tissue (skin, scales, fur, etc...). The drawings were adapted from the many sources. The fossil displays also contain information about where the fossil was found and how it is categorized taxonomically. Full classification is not given since we require our students to do that on their own. (Note: If an educator requires more complete classification for classroom use, we will be happy to provide the information off line. Please contact us.)
There are three doors to the site: Find an Animal, Choose a Time, and Take a Tour. Each entrance provides a different way to explore our fossil collection
How to Use This Museum
Start anywhere! And remember to move the mouse around to find hot links.
If you would like to start by searching for a particular animal, start with Find an Animal. This door will lead you through our museum by following evolutionary branches. There is also a search engine where you may browse our holdings by animal type (invertebrate, amphibian, etc...) or by animal name. The evolution pages show a shape for each animal category; the width of a shape at any given time is proportional to the number of species that existed at that time. Click on the shapes to see the fossils we have available in our collection.
In Choose a Time, maps of Earth at different eras are displayed, from Precambrian (750 million years ago) to Quaternary (1.8 million years ago to the present time). Each map shows the fossils we have in our museum by animal type (invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, dinosaur, etc...); click on "dinosaurs" and see where all the dinosaurs in our collection were found. Click on the indicated fossil locations and you will see photos of each fossils. You also have the option to see how various ecosystems were distributed at the time. Passing the mouse over an ecosystem button shows the locations of the systems and clicking on the ecosystem button removes the display. (For specific information about the construction and functions of the maps, see About the Maps.) Each map has a "Search For a Fossil" button which allows you to search for fossils animal type or name.
Take a Tour offers specific themes. Currently available: Amazing Ammonites (follow the growth and evloution of ammonite sutures) and Fantastic Fusulinids (tiny creatures with intricate design). We plan to open soon a number of other tours, such as, the development of the leg, the evolution of primate teeth, and evolution in given ecosystems.
Plans for the Future
We have been working on this site for over five years, and it continues to be a work in progress. Over the course of this next year we will continue expand our online collection and open the tour section. Long term plans include adding a door to plant fossils.
(We are also working on a site for our Physical Geology course (VSU's GEOL 1110), but we've only just begun!)
We would like to thank our colleagues at VSU who have helped with visualization and some personal photography: Dr Judith Grable, Dr Martha Leake, and Dr Mark Groszos.
We hope you enjoy our museum!
Please send any comments or suggestions to:
Department Head (Paleontology and Geology, also Chief Thinker
C. Barnbaum (Professor of Physics and Astronomy,
also site designer and programmer)
How to Use This Museum
Plans for the Future