Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Museum of the Earth

Museum of the Earth focuses on life beginning in the Cambrian Period, though it delves a little into our 4.5 billion year history. We’re basically learning about the entire Phanerozoic Eon, including the Paleozoic (era of plants), Mesozoic (era of dinosaurs, birds and the breakup of Pangaea), Cenozoic (era of mammals), and our current Quaternary period (Ice Age and humans). So roughly 635 million years of geologic record and development of life as we know it today. Surprisingly, the museum does a fantastic job of narrowing it down to large-scale events that are relevant to our place in New York State, and presented in a way that is engaging.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

You enter the building in a glass-enclosed atrium. There is an admission desk, gift shop, introduction video and a ramp leading down to the main exhibits.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

At the bottom of the ramp, you start with the museum’s current exhibit. When we were there, it was about the 290 million-year-old Helicoprion “Buzzsaw Shark”.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

“A Journey Through Time” is a loop-trail experience; as you walk through the museum you are walking the timeline of Earth’s history to present day, literally walking out the exit! Well, you don’t have to exit, but you can.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

There is a section focused primarily on New York’s geology when we were located closer to the Equator (slowly becoming a part of the Pangean continent (335-175 Mya)). New York was covered in a tropical sea during the Devonian period (420-358 Mya.), evident in the fossils we find today. You can find fossils of sea lilies and trilobites right on the surface when you visit the Penn Dixie Paleontological Education Center just south of Buffalo.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

You continue walk through sections dedicated to specific time periods. Videos, hands-on activities and colorful information boards about each period or mass extinction event help to make sense of the place and time.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY

Information about Museum of the Earth

Penn Dixie Fossil Park Nature Reserve

Visit Penn Dixie near Buffalo next!

Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve is owned and operated by the Hamburg Natural History Society, Inc. The dig site is a hidden gem just 10 miles south of Buffalo. Visitors can find and collect 380 million year-old animal and plant fossils. In 2011, The Geological Society of America ranked Penn Dixie as the No. 1 fossil park in the country.

Videos from Museum of the Earth

We really enjoyed the videos and were excited to learn that they are on YouTube!

Debi Bower

Born, raised and living life as a digital designer in Rochester, NY! I am also a day-tripper, writer & photographer, exploring the nooks and crannies that make our part of New York State so special.

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