Indiana State University
Cunningham Memorial Library's Special Collections summer exhibit, "The Study and Appreciation of the Natural World," is on display at Indiana State University.
The exhibit, which includes books from Special Collections that show artist renderings and scientific documentation, as well as the items from collections in the departments of biology and earth and environmental systems, will be on public display until mid-August.
The idea for the "The Study and Appreciation of the Natural World" exhibit began when Indiana State alumnus and fossil collector Bill Cain, '71, GR '76, contacted May to inquire about having his private collection on display in Special Collections.
"In our spring exhibit, we collaborated with the theater department and Michelle Souza, who wanted to do an exhibit of her designs for "I, Julia." That turned out to be a wonderful exhibit, so we thought about who else on campus we could collaborate with and immediately thought of the science departments that have collections," said Cinda May, chair of Special Collections. "We have a wide variety of books in Special Collections that document the history of travel and discovery with naturalist renderings, so we decided to do an exhibit on the study and appreciation of the natural world."
Much of the fossil and plant material in Cain's collection are his personal discoveries, including fossil shells from Kansas. Some are purchases from fossil shows that have continued to fuel this musician-by-trade's near-lifelong interest in fossils that dates back to when he was in the fourth grade.
The display at the library exhibit includes fossil sharks' teeth, a life-size Raptorex skull replica, dinosaur skin impressions, two dinosaur bones from South Dakota, two dinosaur eggs from China and Mongolia and a replica of a dinosaur egg with a little baby dinosaur inside, called Baby Louie, brachiopods from Riley, Ind. and Clinton, Ind., and fossil coral from Parke County, Ind.
"The exhibit is an example of how the natural world has changed, is still changing and will always change," said Cain, a member of the Mid America Paleontology Society. "It's exciting to find something people have not seen for millions of years and try and piece together where it came from."
Exhibit visitors will also be treated to a rare public look at the department of earth and environmental system's Gorby Collection, which includes fossils, minerals and rocks purchased by the university in the 1960s from Sylvester Gorby, a state geologist from 1888 to 1901.
Featured pieces in the exhibit include a cast of a dinosaur footprint, zinc specimens collected by Indiana State alumni from a mine in Tennessee and several colorful pieces selected by Sandra Brake, professor of geology who manages the Gorby Collection.
"People are familiar with quartz, but they really don't know that it comes in a lot of different forms, so part of the exhibit highlights the variety of quartz, amethyst quartz, rose quartz and smoky quartz and tiger's eye," she said. "They are also colorful, so when I thought about the mineral deposits to display, I leaned toward those that were colorful and ores that form from the oxidation of mineral deposits because they are near the surface and tend to form bright colors."
The pieces are from all over the world - French Congo, Mexico and copper deposits from the southwestern U.S.
"I hope people take away an appreciation of the natural world that gives them a look at what past life was like on the planet," Brake said. "The artifacts can tell us how very different this place was through geologic time. We always say that we like students to see how dynamic the earth is over geologic time, which makes it so different from a lot of the other planets."
The biology department's pieces date back to the 1800s and includes mammals, plants, insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles, much of which was collected through student classwork across the U.S., Canada and overseas.
"The point of the collection is to document the presence of these particular species of plants and mammals. We have had ISU art students use specimens from the collection for drawing and outside researchers have worked with specimen in the collection for their work," said Brianne Walters, assistant director of the Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation at Indiana State who helps maintain the biology department's collection. "I hope people view the collection and gain an appreciation for the natural world."
Kendra McCrea-Bailey, library associate in Special Collections, located several textbooks from the late 1800s and early 1900s with interesting images of an early forest to accompany the collections, including her favorite piece in the exhibit - an early artist rendering of a Pterodactyl, Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur shown together.
"It was a lot of fun to work with items I don't normally get to work with, setting things up in the cases, figuring out what looks best, handling some of the more fragile minerals," McCrea-Bailey said. "There are so many books on geology and life and birds in general, so it was fun to look through and figure out what would go where, what would look best in the cases and what books would support the displays."
Cain's collection is available for public viewing 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday in the Cordell Room foyer on the library's third floor. The biology and earth and environmental systems collection may be viewed on the third floor hallway during regular library hours. Visitors can also pick up a brochure with information on each of the pieces to help guide them through the collections.
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