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Natural History Museum

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Our Mission

To discover, preserve and interpret the fossil record of the region while fostering the appreciation and understanding of natural science through research, education and interactive experiences.

Our Vision

To serve as the region's leading center for natural science discovery, interpretation and inspiration while educating the public about life through time.

In late May of 2000 a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) road construction project on the outskirts of Gray, Tennessee uncovered what would be identified as a large fossil deposit. The state and university acted quickly to preserve the site which has since proven to have tremendous scientific significance.

To maximize the impact and public benefit of the fossil site, the state and university established Tennessee's only Center of Excellence in Paleontology at ETSU and allocated funding to build the 33,000 square feet onsite Natural History Museum which opened in August 2007. Further funding was allocated to add a 7,000 square feet educational annex which opened in the fall of 2011.

Just five years since it opened its doors, the Museum has introduced hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to the unique ecosytem of the 5 million year old Gray Fossil Site and garnered a wealth of knowledge from its priceless fossil finds.

The Museum Collection Area is where we catalogue and store fossils for future generations to study and enjoy, now over 14,000 specimens.

The collections room has been designed to be a safe place to store fossils for many years. The fossils are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment (between 70 and 73 degrees and relative humidity around 40-50%). All the lighting is UV filtered. Only archival (acid-free) materials are used to house and mount specimens. All preparation of specimens can be reversed--in other words, glues and even catalog numbers can be safely removed from specimens if necessary. The collections cabinets themselves are also an important part of maintaining a safe environment for the objects, protecting them from fire, theft, and are made with paints and materials that will not release fumes or toxins over time.For every hour spent in the field, we spend 8 hours to 1 month in the prep lab and in collections preparing the object for storage. Some pieces only need to be cleaned and catalogued, whereas others are meticulously assembled over many weeks. After the lab cleans, butvars, and reassembles (if possible) the fossils, they come over to collections in their plastic bags or in trays. Most bones come with a "Prep Card," which explains how and when they were worked on in the lab. Sometimes the prep card explains what type of bone it is, but often curators must identify them.

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Details and Specs

Hours of Operation:
Tue9:00 AM5:00 PM
Wed9:00 AM5:00 PM
Thr9:00 AM5:00 PM
Fri9:00 AM5:00 PM
Sat9:00 AM5:00 PM
Notes: None Listed


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