Rowan U to build $ 73 million Fossil Park museum
A New Jersey university has just inaugurated the land on the site of a new museum intended to explore the region’s ancient natural past while consuming net zero energy. Rowan University’s new Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum was inspired, university officials said, by the distant perspective offered by the fossil record.
The 44,000-square-foot museum will be in the 65-acre Edelman Fossil Park, perched above a former four-acre mud quarry where marine and terrestrial fossils record the last “moments” of the dinosaur world.
Research at the site is being led by Kenneth Lacovara, founding dean of Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment and director of the fossil park. The work examines what happened during the “fifth mass extinction” in which dinosaurs and three-quarters of other species became extinct about 66 million years ago.
The university acquired the site in 2015.
Photo credit: Ennead Architects and KSS Architects
The new $ 73 million museum will “transport” visitors to a time when dinosaurs roamed the coastline and huge reptilian mosasaurs, sea turtles and crocodiles populated the sea. Land and sea galleries will introduce visitors to the Dryptosaurus, the first tyrannosaurus discovered, which was discovered a mile from the park site in 1866, and a 53-foot mosasaur, like the one discovered at the site, “that swam in the seas, right where you sit,” a Lacovara said in an academic article on the project.
The “Hall of the Cretaceous Seas” will feature marine recreations, and the “Hall of Extinction and Hope” will share the experience of dinosaur extinction, while providing insight into the current crises of climate change and the biodiversity.
The new structure will use water-source geothermal heating and cooling systems and be powered by a solar photovoltaic field, making the museum the largest net-zero public building in the state.
“We 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,” Lacovara said.
The facility will provide hands-on learning stations and a “critter cove”, containing contemporary marine and land animals with genetic links to the site at the end of the Cretaceous. There will also be a fossil research workshop, a virtual reality chamber, a cafe and museum shop, and a dinosaur-themed play area.
The site is named after alumni Ric and Jean Edelman, who donated $ 25 million to Rowan shortly after the university bought the site. The intention of the grant was to develop a research ecosystem that would support scientific, undergraduate and “citizen science” opportunities.
The site has long welcomed visitors, including schoolchildren on field trips, all of whom are encouraged to find Late Cretaceous fossils in the park.
An economic impact study has predicted that 200,000 or more fossil hunters will visit the park and museum each year, generating some $ 300 million in economic activity over a 10-year period.
“The impact this project will have on our region cannot be overstated,” 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.”
Scheduled to open in May 2023, the museum, its landscaping and visitor experiences are designed by Ennead Architects, KSS Architects, SEED Design, Yaki Miodovnik and Gallagher & Associates.
Dian Schaffhauser is Senior Contributing Editor for Educational Publications at 1105 Media The newspaper, Campus technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.