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The Rutgers Geology Museum: America’s first geology museum and the past 200 years of geoscience education

By
Lauren Neitzke-Adamo
Lauren Neitzke-Adamo
Rutgers Geology Museum, Rutgers University, Geology Hall, 85 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University, Wright-Rieman Laboratories, 610 Taylor Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA
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A.J. Blandford
A.J. Blandford
Department of History, Rutgers University, 111 Van Dyck Hall, 16 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA
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Julia Criscione
Julia Criscione
Rutgers Geology Museum, Rutgers University, Geology Hall, 85 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University, Wright-Rieman Laboratories, 610 Taylor Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA
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Richard K. Olsson
Richard K. Olsson
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University, Wright-Rieman Laboratories, 610 Taylor Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA
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Erika Gorder
Erika Gorder
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, Alexander Library, 169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA
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Published:
November 27, 2018
Publication history
21 November 201706 June 2018

ABSTRACT

The Rutgers Geology Museum is America’s first geology museum. Rocks, fossils, and minerals had been collected into “cabinets of curiosities” since first contact between Europeans and Native Americans, and beginning in the late eighteenth century, many of these small personal cabinets were expanded, organized, and made available to the public at natural history and philosophical societies in Philadelphia and Boston. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, geology was widely recognized as an important new science that influenced the organization of collections on display at the growing number of colleges, academies, societies, lyceums, and museums that began popping up all over the United States, but it was not until 1872 that the first museum dedicated specifically to geology was built at Rutgers College. Rutgers University, known as Rutgers College until 1924, is itself one of the oldest colleges in America. Originally chartered as Queens College in the British colony of New Jersey in 1766, Rutgers, along with Harvard (1636), William and Mary (1693), Yale (1701), University of Pennsylvania (1740), Columbia (1754), Princeton (1755), Brown (1764), and Dartmouth College (1769), was among the nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution.

Since its inception, the Rutgers Geology Museum’s primary mission has been to educate the public on natural history–related topics. How this was accomplished has varied greatly through the years and originated with the “cabinet” of minerals that was displayed to students, alumni, and professors in the days of Dr. Lewis Beck, the first geology professor at Rutgers College. Through the efforts of Dr. George Cook, professor and vice president of Rutgers College, Geology Hall was erected in 1872 as the permanent home for the collections, and the museum and its collections became the focal point of the natural history courses taught at the time. The many professors and curators who tended to the museum and its collections over the next half century helped shape and dictate the future of science and geology education at the university, and with the creation of the Department of Geology in 1931, the museum became a center of leading geologic research and the outlet to present the results to the community. Today, the museum strives to connect with the local K–12 and university communities to inspire the next generation of geoscientists to continue building upon the legacy that the many Rutgers University geologists worked so hard to build.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making

Gary D. Rosenberg
Gary D. Rosenberg
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Renee M. Clary, III
Renee M. Clary, III
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Geological Society of America
Volume
535
ISBN electronic:
9780813795355
Publication date:
November 27, 2018

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