Hidden Gems: Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History

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Greg in a romantic vignette filter

Maybe you’ve heard that there’s a secret stuffed bison hidden somewhere in Exley? I don’t see how a stuffed bison could feasibly be a secret, so I’m skeptical about the merit of my “discovery” of it. For those who don’t know: he lives in the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History. Greg (that’s his name) the Bison is only one of many nifty artifacts located in this small museum in the middle of the E&ES department (4th floor of Exley). The museum is named after an emeritus professor who was in what used to be the Geology Department. It’s just like the museum in Animal Crossing, and that’s the most shining endorsement anyone can offer, really.

Chances are, you’re either a museum person or you’re not. If museums aren’t your thing there’s probably not a lot that could convince you to check this place out because it’s a bit like any Natural History museum, only smaller and under renovations. But if museums definitely are your thing, you’ll totally dig this place. It has a surprisingly decent array of geological artifacts, from fossils to minerals to a bunch of badass geodes and crystals. I think I spotted just one taxidermied animal besides Greg. There are two tabletop display cases with various rock and fossil specimens, one of which was filled with mostly basalt. Like, weirdly full of every kind of basalt possible. I kid you not, you can go see “congealed driblets of basalt.”

Highly particular rock obsessions aside, the variety of rocks and minerals is excellent. The twelve-plus display cases on the left side of the room are filled with colorful, shiny specimens with cool names like malachite, vanadinite, and covellite. I took a bunch of photos but my lil’ iPhone 4 couldn’t fully capture their magnificence, so you should really go check them out yourselves for the full experience. A highlight of this area was the halite, which despite being just table salt (NaCl) managed to look respectably mineral-y and super cool.

wesleying 2Inhabiting the right-hand side of the room are the fossils, which are greyer than, but just as nifty as, their inorganic neighbors. My favorite was probably the Brontotherium, a majestic horned creature related to horses and rhinos that “roamed the northern Great Plains” about 34 million years ago. Greg the bison lives next to him, as do a bunch of little fish and squid fossils. Make sure to look for the elegant portrait of a “pig sized hippo.”

A large table with around twenty massive rocks was the focal point of the room, with a quartz geode, a cross section of an agatized log (petrified wood, y’all!), and a bunch of other witchy/pagan looking crystals. They would probably make good necklace pendants?

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Minerals and stuff

This tiny museum is open most weekdays despite ongoing renovations to some lights and display cases. It unfortunately doesn’t have anywhere to sit, but would totally work for a museum date (is that a thing?) or a real-life procrastination destination. If you’re already procrastinating studying in SciLi, you might as well go gaze into Greg’s wise, compassionate, plastic eyes while absorbing some knowledge about the natural world.

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3 thoughts on “Hidden Gems: Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History

  1. K. Brandt

    An historical inquiry: How did a stuffed bison become part of this collection? I would love to know.

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