By Maddie Orton
In an old, Victorian building tucked inside Rutgers campus lies a secret of mammoth proportions. Actually it’s a mastodon. The Rutgers Geology Museum is one of the oldest in the country, yet you might not even know it’s there. This Saturday, the nearly 150-year-old institution will hold its annual open house to welcome fans and first-timers alike. Offering people of all ages a chance to get excited about the earth sciences.
“When I was in fourth grade, I remember learning about plate tectonics for the first time, and I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that makes so much sense,'” recalled museum Co-Director Lauren Neitzke Adamo.
She said the upcoming open house is their biggest event of the year. Anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand people show up.
“It’s very fulfilling and makes my 8-year-old self very proud that I can help pass on some of those things to other kids and the next generation of scientists and geologists,” said Adamo.
The open house includes hands-on activities, lectures, and one of the biggest sales of minerals, rocks, and fossils in the state.
Of course, the museum itself is something to behold. It was founded in 1872 by George Cook — after whom Cook Campus was named. He was New Jersey’s state geologist.
“He actually purchased that mastodon skeleton that we see behind us,” explained Adamo. “There was a farmer in Mannington, New Jersey who found it in his backyard, and George Cook bought the skeleton from that farmer for $300, which, back then, was a lot of money.”
That’s not the only exhibit that originates from New Jersey. A slab of rock embedded with dinosaur tracks comes out of Towoco in Morris County, and Adamo said the florescent minerals on display can only be found here in the Garden State.
“Many people don’t know New Jersey is very well-known for its florescent minerals that are only found in New Jersey and nowhere else in the world,” she said.
Then there’s high priestess Iset-Ha. She is not from New Jersey.
“The mummy is a huge attraction here at the museum. The kids love it. They either think it’s amazing or they’re a little freaked out by it,” said Adamo. “It is one of the most interesting [pieces] and highlights of our tours. When kids come around the corner and see this, we hear gasps, and ‘oohs,’ and aahs.'”
And you never know, that moment coming face to face with history could inspire a kid to become a scientist herself.