A few weekends ago I went for a day trip to Saint John to meet up with my friend Matt at the New Brunswick Museum's Steinhammer Lab. He's currently doing a stint at the research facility and I couldn't resist, desperately wanting to tour this historic place.
This building was the original New Brunswick Museum until it needed more space to accommodate a growing collection. In the 1990s, the exhibition displays found a new home downtown (Market Street area), but most of its collection (closed to the public) was kept at the original building on Douglas Avenue.
This museum is considered Canada's oldest, housing collections dating back to its first proprietor, Abraham Gesner. The influence of the Steinhammer Club, comprised of geologists from the area and abroad, was pivotal in the history of Geology across the globe. They founded the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, and from there the contributions to science have been crucial to the advancement of several fields.
I had also wanted to meet up again with Dr. Randall Miller, curator of the collections and museum, but he was currently out of town. I arrived at the old museum in one piece after dodging a hellish traffic and weird road designs. Beautiful city, crappy roads.
Matt making sure Steve is hard at work
I got to the museum and after talking to the wonderful staff, I met up with Matt and one other friend, Steve. Steve is an amazing fella and will keep you on your toes. They were in the middle of taking specimens collected in recent field work (a couple that I've participated in) and offered to lend a hand. We unloaded the material to the lab, and headed out for a bite to eat.
After parting ways with Steve as he headed back to Fredericton, we proceeded in taking a tour of the Steinhammer Palaeontology Lab. I didn't take any pictures as Randy wasn't around and didn't want to take any just in case he didn't approve. Going through the collection, I've seen some incredible representations of various paleobiological and paleobotanical specimens, including many type specimens. Trilobites, which a cast of one of the biggest I've ever seen barely fit in the collection cabinet. Eurypterids, or sea scorpions, that could give you nightmares, were the size of your average family dog. Fish, bones, and even the remains of a wooly mammoth (Mastodon) graced the collection. This animal was collected from the Hillsborough area, near where I live. The tusks were incredible to behold.
Walking through the halls, it was easy to get lost amidst the many artifacts laying around, beckoning, hungry for your attention. Even going to the washrooms you have to pass a wall of jars, each filled with animals living, and extinct. One doesn't linger too long in the bathroom let me tell ya. Also among the specimens at the lab were the many trackways that we collected, waiting to be analyzed and studied. Seeing specimens that you helped bring up in the light of day and residing in this place was quite a special feeling.
As the day winded down, me and Matt chatted about the importance of keeping collections together, and the crucial role that these play. Every effort must be made to help save these as they help us understand our past and help dictate a future most rich. Our friend Margaret arrived near the end of my stay. As we said our goodbyes, I felt that it was imperative that I participate in the discovery and safekeeping of fossils, and to contribute in the advancement in the fields surrounding those of paleontology and biology.
That is why I love geology, as it makes me have an intimate rapport with science, to which I love and am passionate to no end. To understand and comprehend, wonder even for what nature has left in our path, often hidden, for us to uncover and rediscover.
Saint John River, view from behind the museum