Rowan University opened the region’s newest museum on October 9, a world-class destination that will explore the richness of South Jersey’s ancient past around themes of a more sustainable future.
Designed with world-renowned architects and ‘experienced’ design firms, the $ 73 million, 44,000 square foot Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum in the Canton of Mantua , was inspired by the distant perspective offered by the fossil record. Located in the 65-acre Edelman Fossil Park, the museum will be perched above a former four-acre marl quarry where 66 million-year-old marine and terrestrial fossils record the last moments of the dinosaur world.
(See photos and video of the inauguration)
Research on the site, which Rowan bought from Inversand in 2015, is being led by Dr Kenneth Lacovara, founding dean of Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment and director of Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park. This research highlights the world’s fifth mass extinction, a catastrophic death in which dinosaurs and 75% of other species became extinct.
World class museum
In the museum rooms, visitors will return to the days when dinosaurs roamed the coast and the dreaded reptilian mosasaurs, sea turtles and crocodiles patrolled the sea.
âWe are building a museum like no other, on a globally significant fossil site that will connect visitors to the ancient past, the thrill of discovery and Rowan University,â Lacovara said ahead of the inauguration.
Guests will be amazed, he said, from the moment they enter the lobby, where they see “skeletal reconstructions of creatures that existed here 66 million years ago.”
Visitors will enter the land and sea galleries of the Upper Cretaceous worlds and marvel at the hyper-local hearth, like a Dryptosaurus, the first tyrannosaurus discovered, which was found only a mile from the fossil park site in 1866, and a 53-foot mosasaur, like the one discovered at the site, “who swam in the seas, where you sit “.
The Hall of Cretaceous Seas will showcase an extensive collection of marine recreations, including dozens of world-renowned paleo sculptor Gary Staab, while the Hall of Extinction & Hope will allow visitors to learn about the extinct dinosaurs, immerse themselves in knowledge. of the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises, and explore a network of resources to take action on them.
Elsewhere, “Discovery Forest” will provide hands-on learning stations and “Critter Cove” will contain marine and terrestrial animals with genetic links to the site at the end of the Cretaceous. There will also be a fossil research workshop, virtual reality chamber, cafÃ©, museum shop, paleo-themed playground and nature trails.
âCitizen scienceâ energizes the local economy
Shortly after Rowan’s purchase of the Fossil Park site, alumni Ric and Jean Edelman donated $ 25 million to develop a unique research ecosystem that supports scientific, undergraduate and ‘citizen science’ opportunities . Before the pandemic, the park welcomed thousands of visitors a year, from schoolchildren on bus trips to businessmen and community leaders, all drawn to the discovery of authentic fossils from the late Cretaceous period.
Referring to herself, her husband and Lacovara, all three of Rowan’s alumni, Jean Edelman said: “For three humble children of (the former) Glassboro State College, it is very hard to believe that, here we are, in this amazing place with all of youâ¦ creating this amazing museum that will be here for generations.
Ric Edelman said the museum and park will produce life-changing educational experiences.
âLooking back into the distant past is not just for intellectual curiosity, it’s to remind us of who we are, where we have the potential to go and who we have the potential to become,â he said. -he declares.
A tiny part of the park – a few hundred square meters – has been fully treated but has produced over 50,000 marine and terrestrial fossils, from mosasaurs to sea turtles, sharks, boney fish, corals and clams.
An economic impact study conducted before the museum was built predicted that about 200,000 or more fossil hunters would visit the park and museum each year, generating more than $ 300 million in economic activity over a 10-year period.
âThe impact this project will have on our region cannot be overstated,â Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand said. “From education and research opportunities to jobs and tourism, every dollar spent to develop the fossil park and the museum will go back to the community many times over.”
Environmentally friendly, zero emissions
With geothermal and water-based heating and cooling systems and a solar photovoltaic field, the museum will be New Jersey’s largest net zero public building, which means 100% of the energy used will come from on-site renewable sources and / or green energy via the New Jersey power grid. In addition, the surrounding land will restore habitat for plants and animals and other landscape features.
Special thanks to partners
The early and enthusiastic support of officials, residents and volunteers in Mantua Township and Gloucester County was crucial to the success of the fossil park and ultimately the future museum. Each fall, Community Dig Days typically attract over 2,000 fossil hunters, and the park hosts a variety of programs, from private fossil digs to summer camps, throughout the year. In fact, the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park is the only facility east of the Mississippi River that has a quarry actively open for public dig days.
Rowan also thanks his development partners, especially the award-winning and world-renowned design teams of Ennead Architects (Design Architect), KSS Architects (Architect of Save), SEED Design / Yaki Miodovnik (landscape architect) and Gallagher & Associates (experience design).