Palaeontology Museums – 150 things about Canadian palaeo, part 9

Things have been a bit hectic since I’ve arrived in Japan, so I missed last week’s post! Oops. But hopefully I can continue now, uninterrupted. This week I’m going to talk about some of the museums around Canada where you can see fossils. Starting at 57/150 (more than a third of the way there!):

57. Of course the first on the list has to be the Royal Tyrrell Museum, located in Drumheller, Alberta. This museum is located not in any major city, but just a few kilometres from the original dinosaur find of Joseph Burr Tyrrell, the museum’s namesake, in Midland Provincial Park. It was started thanks to the hard work by Phil Currie, Canada’s foremost dinosaur palaeontologist. Near the Red Deer River valley, this area is ripe with dinosaur fossils, and not too far from Dinosaur Provincial Park. It also has a large active research community, still going on excavations and working on the hundreds of thousands of fossils in their collections. But the Royal Tyrrell isn’t just about dinosaurs, it’s a full museum of palaeontology, with exhibits that allow you to walk through history. Touted as one of the best dinosaur museums in the world, this museum is well worth a visit. I’ve been to the Tyrrell on both research and personal visits, and I can’t stress enough how great it is.

58. The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario is not so far behind. Although the museum features much more than just fossils, it is home to a fantastic collection of some of Canada’s most famous fossils found from around the country. Here you can see the amazing Parasaurolophus skeleton found by William Parks, as well as a number of crocodilians, mammals, invertebrates, etc. The labs of Jean-Bernard Caron and David Evans, to name a few, also keep the ROM up to date in research on the Burgess Shale and dinosaurs, respectively. I finally made it to the ROM for the first time last summer where David showed me around before I had a chat with him about the golden age of dinosaur discovery. Highly recommended!

59. Next up is the Canadian Museum of Nature, our only federally owned natural history museum, located in the capital city of Ottawa. Again, a great museum focusing on the natural history of Canada, with a great number of fossils, but also geology, wildlife, botany, etc. They also have a number of important dinosaur fossils back from when the Geological Survey of Canada was exploring western Canada, such as the original Styracosaurus. Current researchers like Jordan Mallon keep the dinosaur history going at the CMN. I also made it there for the first time last summer, and really enjoyed the displays, including some of the newer work Jordan has been doing on ceratopsians.

60. The Peace River Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge in northern British Columbia is a small centre focusing on conservation, preparation, and research of the fossil dinosaur trackways of northern BC and Alberta. They actively work on the trackways, and have a small gallery on the palaeontology of the region.

61. The fairly new Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum located in Wembley, Alberta features palaeontology in the Grande Prairie and northern Alberta regions, particularly of the Pipestone Creek Pachyrhinosaurus bonebed. They are just starting to get going with research and collections, but from what I’ve heard, the gallery is fantastic. Unfortunately, when I was last there, it was still under construction!

62. But not all museums are about dinosaurs! Joggins Fossil Cliffs in Joggins, Nova Scotia is a place you can go to learn about the fossils of the Carboniferous in Joggins, an important locality which I’ll talk about in more detail in the future. It’s home to the oldest reptile, and preserves a large number of animals. Here, you can go on guided tours of the cliffs, and check out their gallery to learn more about the region.

63. Although not a large museum for palaeontology, the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, BC has some fossils and information about the geological history of BC. There have been a limited number of terrestrial vertebrate fossils found in BC, and a number of invertebrate and vertebrate marine fossils, of course including the Burgess Shale fauna.

64. The Redpath Museum of McGill University exhibits the geological and palaeontological history of Quebec and other parts of Canada, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Miguasha, Quebec.

There are lots of smaller museums as well:

65. The T. rex Discovery Museum of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is not open in the winter, but it features some of the palaeontological history of Saskatchewan, including that of Scotty the T. rex, Saskatchewan’s most famous fossil!

66. The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Manitoba is known for Bruce the mosasaur, the longest mosasaur known. They also boast the largest collection of marine reptiles in Canada.

67. The Blue Beach Fossil Museum is a small museum in Hantsport, Nova Scotia, located near the important Lower Carboniferous Blue Beach, where fossils are exposed regularly.

68. This is a bit of a stab in the dark, as it’s currently under construction, but the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta in the past has had Quaternary palaeontology exhibits and research, lead by Chris Jass. However, the museum is currently closed (so don’t go there now!) as they are opening a new, much larger museum hopefully in late 2017. With any luck, this new museum will have a good display of Quaternary fossils, such as mammoths and short-faced bears, as this is an age not too well focused on in Canadian palaeontology!

69. Not a museum, but… Also there’s Jurassic Forest, just north of Edmonton, Alberta. For full disclosure, I was the founding scientific advisor of this animatronic dinosaur park. That’s right, Animatronic. Dinosaur. Park. It boasts 2 km of trackways through an old growth boreal forest, complete with (mostly) life-size dinosaurs hiding in the bushes that make noise and move when you walk buy. It’s not perfect, but it’s good fun for kids. And it’s my baby…

This is by far not a complete list, and focuses on just a few of the museums that I am aware of around the country. For any fossil lovers, get out and check out these great palaeontology museums!

The series:

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: The Burgess Shale

Part 3: Early Canadian Palaeontologists

Part 4: Canadian Fossil Names

Part 5: Dinosaur Provincial Park

Part 6: Marine Fossils

Part 7: Current Canadian Palaeontologists (1)

Part 8: Dinosaur Fossil Localities

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