Rocks & Rollin’ to Fruita

In July, the Museums of Western Colorado moved the geology collection from the Museum of the West in downtown Grand Junction to Dinosaur Journey in Fruita. The collection consists of beautiful minerals, drill cores, petrified wood, and ore and rock samples. The task was a large undertaking, as the collection was quite extensive. Transfer of the specimens was undertaken by curator of paleontology Dr. Julia McHugh, MWC paleontology field crew Casey Dooms and Tom Buskuskie, and CMU geology student intern Brandi Maher.

Although the natural sciences division of the Museums of Western Colorado is located at the Dinosaur Journey facility in Fruita, only a few items from this collection were actually housed there. Nearly all of the collection was in storage for many years at the Museum of the West. This was due to a lack of space at Dinosaur Journey. However, with the construction of the new collections annex at Dinosaur Journey in 2016 (thanks to funding from grant by the BLM and a reduced building lease with the City of Fruita), space was finally available for the geology collection to make the journey west.

Working in the relative cool of morning on a hot summer day, we repacked the entire collection into 3-4 dozen large, reinforced boxes to support the heavy weight of the collection. The boxes were carefully loaded into a van for transport – we had to go slowly as the weight of the collection pushed our bumper closer and closer to the asphalt. Somehow we managed to fit everything into a single load. However, getting the collection to Fruita was only the first step. Once the collection was at Dinosaur Journey, it was unpacked and sorted. During the sorting process, we discovered some very nice samples of urania and other radioactive ores. These could not be safely stored in the collections area, so they were removed from the building as we create safe housing for the materials. After sorting, the specimens were rehoused in archival boxes and put into cabinets and shelves in the collections annex. All in all, the collection filled four 16-drawer cabinets and six shelves. We still need to inventory the collection and enter it into the collections database, which will be quite an undertaking itself.

After the collection is inventoried and databased, we hope to start putting specimens on display at Dinosaur Journey. However, finding ample space in the crowded exhibit galleries for the specimens remains a work in progress. Our curator, Dr. McHugh, has plans for a large, immersive geology exhibit that will feature our collection and highlight local rock formations and mineral resources, as well as interpreting basic principles of geology. As we complete other projects at the museum, we will be turning our attention to making these plans a reality. Building, preserving, and sharing our collections is a monumental task, but as a museum it is our primary function and one we relish doing.