Step back in time at Museum of the Earth.
Located in Ithaca, the museum is one of two educational venues that are managed by the Paleontological Research Institution – the other, Cayuga Nature Center, features more than five miles of trails and a treehouse. Gilbert Harris, a paleontologist (he studied mostly invertebrates) and a professor at Cornell University, created PRI in 1932. It is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
“Museum of the Earth didn’t open until 2003, so there was really no public institution associated with the research institution until then,” said Rob Katz, community engagement coordinator for PRI. “We have had an almost 100 year collection of fossils from all over the world, and Museum of the Earth was born out of wanting to bring that to the public and educate them not only about those fossils, but about paleontology in our region and how geology and earth sciences have shaped our local landscape…We really enjoy communicating with the public about science. It’s what all of us love to do.”
These days, Museum of the Earth is home to a variety of permanent exhibits, covering topics such as glaciers, coral reefs, dinosaurs and climate change. Its fossils cover the entire history of life on earth. Among the most popular is the 13,000-year-old Hyde Park Mastodon, which Katz said, “is one of the most complete mastodon skeletons that has been found.” The museum also features a different temporary exhibit each year (this year’s exhibit, “Six-Legged Science,” highlights Cornell University’s insect collection).
“What make us really unique is that we are a pretty new museum compared to many of the museums across the country and even in New York. As such, we really try to talk about issues that a lot of museums might not have the capacity to, such as climate change,” said Katz. “And we really prompt people to think about our earth’s history. Our museum is laid out as a way for people to discover the Earth’s past, to think about it, and to discover something new that they didn’t know before. It’s a really accessible, easily digestible museum.”
If You Go
Museum of the Earth
Where: 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca.
Hours: Thursday – Monday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $9/adults; $7/seniors (65+); $7/college students; $6/youth (ages 4-17); free/ages 3 and under.
More information: (607) 273-6623. museumoftheearth.org.