Rowan University opens $ 73 million Fossil Park Museum

A world-class destination expected to attract 200,000 visitors per year

Rowan University recently opened the region’s newest museum, a world-class destination that will explore the distant and local past around themes of a more sustainable future.

Designed with world-renowned architects and experienced design offices, the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum in Mantua, valued at $ 73 million and covering 44,000 square feet, was inspired by the distant perspective offered by the fossil record. Located in the 65-acre 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. The museum is slated to open in May 2023.

Research on the site, which Rowan bought from Inversand in 2015, is being led by Dr Kenneth Lacovara, founding dean of the School of Earth & Environment and director of the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park. Already, this research is shedding light on ancient events that led to the world’s fifth mass extinction, a catastrophic death in which most dinosaurs (except birds) and 75% of other species became extinct. .

World class museum

In the museum’s exhibition halls, visitors will be transported to a time when dinosaurs roamed the coast and fearsome mosasaurs, giant sea turtles and crocodiles patrolled the sea. Lacovara said the museum would also provide opportunities for exploration of the contemporary era, in particular the rapid worsening of climate crises and biodiversity.

“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 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 terrestrial and maritime galleries of the Upper Cretaceous worlds and marvel at the hyper-local hearth, like a recreated Brontosaurus, the first tyrannosaurus discovered, which was found just one mile from the fossil park site in 1866, and a 53-foot mosasaur, like the one found at the site, “that 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, café, museum shop, paleo-themed playground and nature trails.

A major donation boosts “citizen science” and the local economy

Shortly after Rowan’s purchase of the Fossil Park site, alumni Ric and Jean Edelman donated $ 25 million to develop it as a unique research ecosystem that supports scientific, undergraduate and ‘science’ opportunities. citizen ”. 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 prospect of finding actual 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 you… creating this amazing museum that will be here for generations.

While the couple’s extraordinary donation will fund more than a third of the museum’s construction, Ric Edelman said the most important aspect of the project is the educational impact it will have.

“Looking 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,” he said. -he declares.

To date, a few hundred square meters of the 65-acre site have been fully processed, but they have produced more than 50,000 cataloged marine and terrestrial fossils, from reptilian mosasaurs to sea turtles, sharks, bony 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.

“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.”

Environmentally friendly, zero emissions

With geothermal water-based heating and cooling systems and a solar photovoltaic field, the museum will be New Jersey’s largest net-zero public building. This means that 100% of the energy used by the museum 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, in particular our award-winning and world-renowned design teams at Ennead Architects (Design Architect), KSS Architects (Architect of Record), SEED Design / Yaki Miodovnik (Landscape Architect) and Gallagher & Associates (Experience Design).

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