Museum of Geology History

The Museum is as old as South Dakota Mines. In 2010 both celebrated their 125th anniversary.

Construction of the Old Prep Building, the first home for the Museum of Geology, begins. Professor G.E. Bailey of Hill City provides over 5000 mineral and fossil specimens that form the foundation for the Museum of Geology.
Dr. Cleophas C. O’Harra, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, leads the first South Dakota Mines paleontology expedition into the Badlands. On this trip School of Mines Canyon is named. An alligator snout collected on this expedition becomes the first specimen curated into museum collections (SDSM 001).  
The Museum of Geology, with the Department of Geology and Mineralogy, moves to the Main Building. The arch of this building remains standing on the South Dakota Mines quadrangle.
South Dakota Mines wins a gold medal and certificate for its economic geology exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. In addition, two large relief maps of the Black Hills made by Mr. E.E. Howell of Washington, D.C., are unveiled at the Fair. These maps are later donated to Mines; one is on display in the Museum and the other in Devereaux Library.
Dr. O’Harra publishes The White River Badlands (South Dakota School of Mines Bulletin No. 13).
The Museum of Geology’s public floor opens, attracting 4,000 visitors in 1923, 8,000 in 1924, and 12,000 in 1925. While a part time student and instructor at the School, Mr. Glenn L. Jepsen spends the summer working for the American Museum of Natural History in western Nebraska, and collects the Agate Springs rhino slab on display in the Museum. Two other students, Mr. James D. Bump (BS Met E 1929, DSC HON 1954) and Mr. LeMoyne Cook, prepared the slab for exhibit.
Mr. Jepsen collects in White River Badlands with the assistance of Mr. Almyr Bump (BS MIN E 1925) and Mr. Hugo Schlaiker. A nearly complete alligator skeleton collected in the Chadron Formation during that expedition is on display in the Museum.
The large Xiphactinus (fish) skeleton on display in the Museum is collected southeast of Hot Springs, SD by Messrs. Jepsen, L.L. Cook, and J. Bump.
A fine Triceratops skull, on display in the Museum, is collected from the Hell Creek Formation near Camp Crook by Messrs. J. Bump, Harold Martin (BS MIN E 1931; MS GEOL 1953) and James Cook. This specimen is the state fossil of South Dakota. 
James D. Bump becomes the Museum's first preparator, he would go on to become the first curator in 1939, and director in 1941.
Under the auspices of the National Geographic Society, Dr. Joseph Peter Connolly, Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology, and Mr. J. Bump lead an expedition to collect Oligocene (Whitneyan) fossils from the White River Badlands. This expedition was later featured in National Geographic in May, 1947 under the title “Big Game Hunting in the Land of Long Ago.”
Museum exhibits move to the third floor of the newly completed O’Harra Building.
A mosasaur (Mosasaurus conodon, SDSM 452) is found by a schoolboy in the Pierre Shale (Campanian) near the newly constructed spillway of Elm Lake, Brown County, South Dakota. This specimen was collected by Mr. J. Bump and is on exhibit in the Museum. After World War II, Mr. Harold Martin returns to the Museum to become chief preparator while earning an MS in Geology (1953). 
Dr. James Reid Macdonald (fossil mammals) is appointed Assistant Professor of Geology and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. A plesiosaur, Alzadasaurus pembertoni (now Styxosaurus snowii), is discovered by rancher Mr. Arthur Salzmann on the banks of the Missouri River, eight miles northeast of Iona, South Dakota. It was excavated by Messrs. J. Bump and H. Martin, and is on exhibit in the Museum.
Dr. Morton Green (modern and Cenozoic mammals) is hired as Assistant Professor of Biology and appointed a Research Associate of the Museum. Mr. J. Bump, Dr. Green, Dr. MacDonald and Mr. H. Martin collect camel skeletons on the Mr. Harold J. Cook ranch at Agate, Nebraska, now part of Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Financial support for this expedition was provided by Dr. Ray E. Lemley, M.D.
The Museum sponsors the Fifth Field Conference of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which focuses on the paleontology of western South Dakota. Mr. J. Bump edits the guidebook, which is published by the Museum.
Dr. Edward Tullis, Professor of Geology, is appointed acting Museum Director.

Dr. Robert W. Wilson (Cenozoic mammals) is appointed as Professor of Geology and Director of the Museum. Dr. Green, Chairman of the Department of Biology, is appointed Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. Dr. George Rapp, Assistant Professor of Geology, is appointed Curator of Mineralogy. The family of James Bump establishes the James D. Bump Memorial Fund in support of the Museum.

Alyss Beebe (artist) and H. Martin (preparator) begin work on the Badlands Dioramas, they were finished in 1962. 

The Master’s degree in Paleontology is approved by the Board of Regents. The first museum methods class is offered. 
Mr. Willard L. Roberts is appointed as Research Associate of Mineralogy.
Mr. Roberts and Dr. Rapp publish Mineralogy of the Black Hills. Dr. David Garski is appointed as Curator of Mineralogy. Mrs. Margaret Cook of Agate, Nebraska donates a large collection of books, maps, minerals, fossils, and rocks from the estate of Harold J. Cook. The Cook’s Ranch was designated as the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, though the National Monument wasn't officially established until 1997. 
Dr. Robert W. Wilson spends the year in Vienna, Austria on as a Fulbright Scholar, Harold E. Martin becomes the first Associate Director and oversees the Museum for this time. 
Mr. Merton Bowman becomes Preparator and Curator of Exhibits. Bowman and Roberts update Mineral exhibits.  
Mr. Roberts is named Curator of Mineralogy. Dr. R Wilson is awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society for an expedition into the White River Badlands. 
Mr. Roberts becomes Director of the Museum. Representative Grace Mickelson initiates a bill in the state legislature that confirms the Museum as an integral part of South Dakota Mines.
Dr. Philip R. Bjork (MS PALEO 1964) (Cenozoic Mammals) is appointed Professor of Geology and Museum Director.

 Dr. James E. Martin (BS GEOL 1971, MS PALEO 1973) (Cretaceous marine reptiles; Cenozoic mammals) is hired as Assistant Professor of Geology to direct the geology field camp program. Museum of Geology initiates field paleontology summer courses. The Museum’s occasional monograph series, Dakoterra, issues its first publication: Bibliography of Fossil Vertebrates 1973-1977, by Morton Green, Jerl E. Pringle and Jiri Zidek.

Joyce Fossen is hired as a Museum Educator and launches the "Museum to the People" program to talk to kids about paleontology, geology, and other science subjects. Students called her Mrs. Fossil, and the Museum spoke to over 6,000 students that year.  

Dr. Bjork collects a Tyrannosaurus skull from the Floden Ranch near Mud Butte (Hell Creek Formation). This was the 6th T. rex ever found. This specimen is on display in the Museum.
Dr. J. Martin becomes Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. Joyce Fossen, “Mrs. Fossil,” publishes a children’s book, Colossal Fossils and Other Findings of Professor Knows-It, based on Dr. Bjork’s research. Museum collections and laboratories are moved from the O’Harra Building into the Old Gym.
South Dakota Mines and the Museum celebrate their 100th anniversary, and the Museum hosts the 45th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The Museum receives a Collections/Curation Improvement grant from the National Science Foundation; as a result, Ms. Janet Whitmore is hired as the first Collections Manager.
A gift from the estate of Mrs. Eleanor Harrison establishes the Melvin Haslem Fund to support research in the Museum of Geology and Department of Geology & Geological Engineering.
The Big Pig Dig locality is discovered in Badlands National Park by park visitors. Over one hundred Mines paleontology students worked the quarry over the course of the project, which was completed in 2008.
Ms. Carrie Herbel (Cenozoic mammals) is hired as Collections Manager.
Dr. Gorden Bell (vertebrate paleontology) becomes the first Haslem Postdoctoral Fellow.
Dr. Julia Sankey (vertebrate paleontology) is appointed as the Haslem Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Gale Bishop (BS GEOL 1965, MS GEOL 1967) of Georgia Southern University donates his collection of fossil decapods and associated archives to the Museum. The Museum hosts the Fifth Federal Conference on Fossil Resources.
Dr. Bishop (fossil decapods) is appointed as Professor of Geology and Museum Director.
Dr. Jonathon Bloch (vertebrate paleontology) is appointed as the Haslem Postdoctoral Fellow.
Dr. Michael Terry (structural geology, tectonics) is hired as an Assistant Professor of Geology and appointed as Curator of Mineralogy. Dr. Gerald Grellet-Tinner (vertebrate paleontology) is hired as an Assistant Professor of Geology and appointed as a Vertebrate Paleontology Curator.  Dr. Darrin Pagnac (MS PALEO 1998) (Cenozoic mammals; sauropods) is appointed as the Haslem Postdoctoral Fellow. Juveniles of a plesiosaur and a mosasaur from Antarctica are unveiled at Museum.
Ms. Heidi Minkler Carr (MS PALEO 2007) (Oligocene fauna of the White River Badlands) is hired as a Program Assistant to manage the public floor of the Museum.
Dr. J. Martin becomes Executive Curator of Paleontology. Ms. Sally Shelton (geological conservation) is hired as Collections Manager.
Construction of the new Paleontology Research Laboratory (PRL) begins. Dr. James Fox (invertebrate paleontology), Professor Emeritus of Geology, is appointed as Curator of Invertebrates.  A gift from the Frank M. and Gertrude R. Doyle Foundation provides support for archives, library and laboratories in the PRL. The Field Museum donates three life-size titanothere sculptures created by Frederick Blaschke in 1931.
Dr. Pagnac is hired as an Assistant Professor of Geology and appointed Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. Dr. Aaron Wood (vertebrate paleontology) is appointed as the Haslem Postdoctoral Fellow. The PRL is formally opened in September, with Governor Mike Rounds as a keynote speaker. A gift from the Estate of Mrs. Helen Epplen establishes a fund to support fossil preparation activities.

The PRL is renamed the James E. Martin Paleontology Research Laboratory. Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Foster announce their intent to fund an endowment to support vertebrate paleontology in the Museum of Geology. Dr. Laurie Anderson (fossil and modern mollusks) is appointed Museum Director and Head of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. Dr. Anderson accessions her collection of fossil and modern mollusks into the Museum. Dr. Maribeth Price (Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing), Professor of Geology, is appointed as Curator of Maps. The University of South Dakota and the Springfield Museum donate large collections of modern and fossil invertebrates to the Museum. A collection of valuable minerals from Tennessee is donated by Dr. Clark Scovel and Dr. Steve Neely.

 Museum of Geology receives AAM Accreditation.

Summer Hours

(beginning Memorial Day)

Monday-Saturday: 9 AM - 6 PM
Closed: Sundays and Independence Day

Winter Hours

(beginning Labor Day)

Monday-Saturday: 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM 
Closed: Sundays and Federal Holidays

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