There are many reasons to visit Ithaca New York. The Finger Lakes are beautiful. There are many great hiking opportunities a short drive away. There are wonderful wineries. But one thing often overlooked is a great natural history museum—The Museum of the Earth.
The Museum of the Earth is run by the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), in affiliation with Cornell University. The museum opened in 2003 with a focus on earth science and the history of life on our planet. PRI has one of the largest collection of fossils in the United States, and they are shown to great effect in the museum.
When you get to the museum you enter into a small hall. On your left is the skeleton of an Atlantic Right Whale. This is not a fossil, but is the remains of whale that died in 1999, when it became caught in fishing gear.
When you leave the lobby, you will walk down a long ramp to the main floor of the museum. Along the center of the ramp is a beautiful artwork titled “Rock of Ages, Sands of Time” by Barbara Page. This work is comprised of 544 hand-painted ceramic tiles. Each features a representation of a fossil. As you proceed down the ramp, you follow the fossils back in time, to the Cambrian Explosion.
As you walk through the museum, you take a chronological walk through the history of our planet. The floor is divided into sections, each representing an important era, with an explanatory video and rooms full of fossils of life typical to that period of history.
One of the most popular exhibits is the Hyde Park Mastodon. It was discovered in 1999 in Hyde park NY, and contains 95% of the bones of the animal, making it one of the most complete finds in history.
My favorite exhibit was “Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology”. This exhibit explored the role of women in the development of the the study of the history of life on earth. It gave a great deal of weight to the obstacles that women in science have had to overcome to enter and be taken seriously in science. It also discusses the issues of discrimination and bias that exist in science today.
The Museum of the Earth is a wonderful exploration into many aspects of Earth Science. While it is aimed at children, it is great for kids of all ages.
Nuts and Bolts:
The Museum of the Earth is located at 1259 Trumansburg Road (NY-96), on a hill overlooking the western side of Lake Cayuga.
It is open Friday-Monday, 10:00 AM - 12 Noon and 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM.
Admission: Adults $9/ Seniors and Students $7/ Youth $6