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Dig into the past in the Florida Museum’s new ‘Fantastic Fossils’ exhibit

Courtesy of Florida Museum of Natural History

BY NIKHIL SRINIVASAN

The Florida Museum of Natural History’s latest special exhibit allows visitors to time travel through the gravel by taking a unique look at life as a paleontologist in the museum’s collections.

Opening April 2, “Science Up Close: Fantastic Fossils” is a collaborative endeavor linking the museum’s exhibits and collections staff, giving people a look at never-before-seen specimens and real fossils. Researchers from the vertebrate paleontology, invertebrate paleontology, and paleobotany collections will be in the exhibit as part of its working lab, providing a glimpse into the daily life of curators, collection managers, students, and volunteers.

Visitors can see staff working on projects that usually happen away from the public eye, from cleaning and rebuilding fossils to sorting through sediment and creating digital reconstructions. Scientists and educators will provide virtual programming from dig sites, museum collections, and more, giving guests a complete overview of a paleontologist’s duties and a chance to engage with people in the field.

“We rarely get the chance to see the process of science unfold right in front of us, and I think that will be inspiring for visitors of all ages to experience,” said Jonnie Dietz, Florida Museum exhibit developer.  

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The exhibit will house more than 100 fossils, casts, and replicas from the museum’s paleontology collections, including full-size casts of a Triceratops and Albertosaurus. Scientists will also livestream from the museum collections to showcase other fossils and specimens that aren’t on display.

“Interacting with real paleontologists working on real fossils in the lab and through the livestream is going to be the highlight of the exhibit,” said Rachel Narducci, lab coordinator in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s paleontology division. “The fossils on display have a lot of fun facts and even more interesting tidbits if you ask someone working about them!”

Visitors will also be able to take part in interactive, independent learning with a touch table and paleoart activity station. The fossils in the exhibit are split into eight themed displays covering paleontology from a variety of angles, including misconceptions, how technology is used in paleontology, common Florida fossils, and climate change.

Admission to “Fantastic Fossils” is $7 for adults; $6.50 for Florida residents, seniors, and non-University of Florida college students; $4.50 for ages 3 to 17; and free to museum members, children ages 2 and younger, and UF students with a valid Gator 1 Card. Complete admission pricing, including online tickets, is available at www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/visit/plan