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2009-01-25 – Burgess Shale fossils at the Royal Ontario Museum

‘A Fossil Paradise’ At Royal Ontario Museum

One hundred years ago a discovery was made that drastically changed our view of the history of life on Earth. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents A Fossil Paradise: The Discovery of the Burgess Shale by Charles D. Walcott, an exploration of the Burgess Shale’s early excavations, including vintage panoramic photos, site artifacts and a profile of the man who made the great discovery as told by his personal field notes and letters.

Considered one of the most important finds in palaeontology, the Burgess Shale was humankind’s first view into some of the most ancient and bizarre animals to inhabit our planet 500 million years ago. From January 31, 2009 to April 26, 2009, the exhibition will be presented on Level 2 of the Hilary and Galen Weston Wing, next to a display of fossils from the ROM’s own storerooms, the largest and most diverse collection of Burgess Shale specimens in the world.

“The origin of today’s animal diversity can be traced back to half-billion years in the superbly preserved fossils of the Burgess Shale,” said Jean-Bernard Caron, Associate Curator, Invertebrate Palaeontology. “The period when these animals lived shortly followed a time of massive evolutionary changes and experimentations, known as the Cambrian Explosion. Today, these fossils continue to marvel scientists and public alike in providing important clues on this unique chapter in the history of life.”

The Burgess Shale is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, near the town of Field, British Columbia. The spot contains some of the world’s most spectacularly preserved fossilized remains of soft-bodied organisms that evolved in the Cambrian Period, 500 million years ago. Concealed within layers of rock are fine details of their anatomy, allowing a greater understanding of the ecology, diversity and evolution of animal communities during that period. American Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927), discovered the most important of the Burgess Shale sites in 1909 while serving as the Fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and regularly returned to the Burgess Shale until 1924 when, at the age of 74, he had collected over 65,000 specimens.

Vintage Photography

Walcott used photography to document his scientific work. While this was an important means of documenting scientific findings, field photography in the early 1900s was extremely cumbersome. Walcott preferred glass-plate negatives, which meant hauling heavy glass over the mountains by horse. It was also often necessary to send test photo shots all the way to Washington, D.C. to be developed and back before he knew whether to adjust the camera. Despite these hardships, by the time of his last expedition, Walcott had taken 650 photographic panoramas of the Canadian Rockies.

A Fossil Paradise includes eight of these oversize vintage panoramic photographs that demonstrate the scenic grandeur of the area and document a geologist at work in the early 20th century. Also on display is a 2.5 metre (over 8 feet) wide panorama taken from Burgess Pass by Walcott in 1911, the largest photograph ever published by National Geographic. Visitors can also see a circa 1908 R.B. Cirkut camera of the type used by Walcott. —



gennaio 25, 2009 - Posted by | 1 Cambriano, America Northern, An. Invertebrates, Musei, Paleontology / Paleontologia, Paleozoico, Places | , , , , , , , , ,

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