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Illinois State Museum Celebrates National Fossil Day on October 17, 2012

  Illinois State Museum Celebrates National Fossil Day on October 17, 2012   

SPRINGFIELD – On October 17, the Illinois State Museum is celebrating National Fossil Day, with many opportunities for visitors to see fossils up close, touch specimens, and see real science in action with Dr. Chris Widga, ISM Assistant Curator of Geology.  From 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. visitors will have a chance to observe Dr. Widga as he removes Mastodont jaws from the Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments exhibition for analysis as part of ongoing research about how these animals became extinct.  

The Mammoths and Mastodonts that once roamed Illinois—found today only as fossils—were some of the megafauna that became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age. The Museum’s geologists are systematically studying museum collections from the Midwest to record and analyze Mammoth and Mastodont fossils. Their goal is to better understand when extinction occurred and how these animals adjusted to the major landscape changes of that time. Dr. Widga’s work in the Museum on National Fossil Day is part of this research, and an exciting opportunity for visitors to see a working scientist in action.

Also during Fossil Day, visitors can see many internationally acclaimed fossils from the Museum’s collections on display in the Changes exhibition and the Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum, including Illinois’ State fossil—the Tully Monster. Visitors will also receive a National Fossil Day bookmark.

This is the third National Fossil Day celebration, organized by the National Park Service to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils and a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value. The Illinois State Museum is participating as part of its mission to promote discovery, lifelong learning, and stewardship of Illinois' natural, cultural, and artistic heritage.

The Museum’s geology collections include over 200,000 specimens, which are the foundation for exhibitions and public programs and used for research by scholars all over the world. The Museum has an outstanding collection of plant and animal fossils from the Mazon Creek area, which is one of the best preserved and richest fossil assemblages in the world. The Museum’s vertebrate paleontology collection includes over 50,000 specimens and is one of the best Ice Age mammal fossil collections in North America. The Museum’s collections also include a number of “type specimens,” which are tremendously important because they are the specimens first used to describe a species. This includes dozens of type invertebrates, 6 fish types, and many type plant fossils. While the Changes and Play Museum exhibitions feature hundreds of spectacular fossils from the Museum’s vast collections, the majority are curated and studied at the Museum’s Research and Collections Center. 

The Museum’s extensive collections and research activities provide the foundation for exhibitions and public programs that tell the story of the land, life, people, and art of Illinois. The Illinois State Museum is located at 502 S. Spring St. (on the corner of Spring and Edwards Streets) in Springfield and is open from 8:30 - 5:00 Monday through Saturday and from 12:00 - 5:00 on Sunday. Admission is free.  Parking is available nearby and the building is ADA accessible.


Elizabeth Bazan (public programs)
Tel: 217-782-5993
Dr. Chris Widga (fossil research)
Tel: 217-785-4844
TTY: 217-782-9175

Press photo:
National Fossil Day Logo:


Friday, October 05, 2012

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Illinois State Museum
Founded 1877
The Illinois State Museum promotes discovery, learning, and an appreciation of Illinois' natural, cultural, and artistic heritage.
General Information: (217)782-7386
Director's Office: (217)782-7011
Interim Museum Director: Michael Wiant
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