30 September 2017

Favourite fossils unearthed for travelling museum exhibit

Richard Watts / Times Colonist

The Royal B.C. Museum is entrusted with showcasing the natural and human histories of British Columbia, but, with a special fossil show, it is expanding its outlook to all of Canada.

In a national first, the Victoria-based museum is embarking on a collaborative effort with 10 other natural history museums across Canada, to start the exhibit tour of Museum’s Choice: Fossil Favourites from Across Canada.

In the exhibit, accessible to the public until Oct. 26, will be some of the most impressive or significant fossils submitted from natural history museums across the country.

The Royal B.C. Museum will display fossil molar teeth from Cornwallius sookensis, an extinct sea cow that once lived off Sooke.

“It’s not something that many people really know about,” said zoologist Kelly Sendall, head of collections care and conservation at the Royal B.C. Museum. “It’s a really interesting-looking animal.”

Other notable fossils include the intact skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, a dinosaur footprint from the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History and more footprints from an extinct, giant millipede from the New Brunswick Museum.

The display is the result of 18 months of planning and discussions from curators aligned with the 15-year-old Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada.

It is the first time the alliance has tried to create an exhibit truly national in scope to travel the country.

“It will really show that Canada is really fossil rich,” Sendall said.

Jack Lohman, CEO of the Royal B.C. Museum, has been enthusiastic about co-operative efforts with other museums.

Whether it’s the mummified baby mammoth from the Shemanovskiy Yamal-Nenets District Museum in Siberia or an exhibit of Viking artifacts from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, Lohman has said, museums and scientists are at their most instructive when working together.

“We hope that the Royal B.C. Museum’s fossil, along with others in this exhibit, will help contribute to the nation’s understanding of what life looked like millions of years ago,” he said in a statement.