In 1876, state geologist Thomas Condon was hired as one of the first University of Oregon professors. He brought with him his extensive fossil collection.
Now, 140 years later, the Smithsonian-accredited UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) — which houses Condon’s collection — represents the best of its breed: an enviable collection of relics and artifacts; dynamic exhibits; an esteemed research division; and public outreach into classrooms across Oregon.
“We have a crazy array of talent here,” says Ann Craig, MNCH director of public programs. “Sculptors, illustrators, digital animators—and we get those kinds of brains collaborating with some of the best scientists in their fields. It’s that Eugene thing with people who are so talented, so skilled. All these people are bursting to do fun, smart things.”
However, if any feature of the MNCH has been a sore spot for museum staff in the recent past, it’s a lack of space to show off the museum’s huge assortment of items in its archeology and paleontology collections. That situation, however, is about to improve. Significantly!
In November 2016, a year-long makeover of the museum’s south wing was unveiled with the opening of an expanded and permanent cultural history exhibit headlined Oregon—Where Past is Present. The exhibit features fresh content, interactive displays, and greater accessibility. There’s also a brand new exhibit area devoted to Oregon’s Paisley Caves, where UO archeologists are exploring human remains, suggesting the site holds evidence of the earliest human inhabitants in North America.
In other words, Eugene MNCH-goers will soon get a grander vision of Oregon’s first peoples—not only in the past tense, but as living, growing, thriving, and very diverse cultures. Add that to the MNCH’s already impressive showcase of saber tooth salmon, Oregon dioramas, native plant gardens, North America’s largest meteorite, giant sloth remains, and, well. . . you’ll simply have to go check it all out!