November 25, 2008

AMHERST, Mass.—In response to increased interest and enormous positive feedback from the public, the Amherst College Museum of Natural History will remain open for visitors for the second straight year during the college’s Thanksgiving vacation from Friday, Nov. 28, to Sunday, Nov. 30. It will be open each day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Housed with the college’s geology department in the Earth Sciences and Museum of Natural History Building, the museum contains the collections of the old Pratt Museum. The natural history collections at Amherst include vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology; minerals and other geologic specimens; and anthropological material acquired through expeditions, exchanges, donations and purchases from the 1830s to the present. The collection mirrors the ever-changing interests of the Amherst faculty and the history of scientific inquiry. Much comes from the Connecticut Valley, but much also comes from Africa, Asia and South and Central America, where early Amherst graduates traveled as missionaries or explorers.

The entrance floor features a variety of displays on vertebrate evolution and extinction, including free-standing fossil skeletons of a mammoth, mastodon, dire wolf, saber-toothed cat, Irish elk and cave bear. Fossils from Amherst College expeditions to Patagonia and the American West are exhibited, as are recently-extinct birds such as the moa and the ivory-billed woodpecker. The second floor demonstrates the geological phenomena of the Connecticut River Valley—including mountain-building and glaciation—and is the home to a display of local animal and plant fossils and a small exhibit on human evolution and teeth. Finally, the ground floor displays a large collection of dinosaur tracks (primarily from the Connecticut River Valley), skulls of a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops and a diorama with a model showing what some of our local dinosaur species might have looked like. There is also a cast of a dinosaur track “book” that visitors can handle.

Visitors are invited to open drawers on the first and second floors, to view specimens from the museum’s various collections. They are also invited to explore minerals and meteorites from the local area and around the world on display in cases in the corridor that runs between the museum and the geology department.

Regular hours at the Amherst College Museum of Natural History are Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, go to the museum’s Web site: