Founder’s Week Celebration 2015

Blog 28
Dawn Roberts, Collections Manager
January 14, 2015

We are having a party this week! The Chicago Academy of Sciences was founded on January 13, 1857 and was the first science museum in Chicago. Our collections served as the nucleus for the organization of our institution and preserve our natural heritage. These specimens, artifacts, and associated documents are used as primary source material for environmental studies and historical research. To celebrate our birthday, we’ve brought out specimens from the museum collections that aren’t typically on display.

One question we are often asked is, “What is the oldest specimen in our collection?” The oldest specimen in our museum collection, in terms of when it was collected, are two Merlins collected in the Rocky Mountains in 1834 by J.R. Townsend. That’s right — bird specimens that are 182 years old! One of these is on display.

  • ORN20184820 Falco20columbarius20richardsonii202 JPG 2048x1536

    Merlin ♀
    Falco columbarius richardsonii
    Rocky Mts.
    Collected by J.R. Townsend, July 9, 1834
    CAS ORN 1848 (old 11426)

  • ORN20184820 Falco20columbarius20richardsonii201 JPG 2048x906

    Merlin ♀
    Falco columbarius richardsonii
    Rocky Mts.
    Collected by J.R. Townsend, July 9, 1834
    CAS ORN 1848 (old 11426)

  • ORN20184820 Falco20columbarius20richardsonii20label JPG 2048x944

    Merlin ♀
    Falco columbarius richardsonii
    Rocky Mts.
    Collected by J.R. Townsend, July 9, 1834
    CAS ORN 1848 (old 11426)

PAL202013 3 120 Tullimonstrum20gregarium JPG

Fossils, though, have the award for oldest in terms of when they were created! This “Tully Monster” fossil is from the Mazon Creek area, right here in Illinois, and is approximately 307 million years old.

Tully Monster
(Tullimonstrom gregarium)
Mazon Creek Area, Will Co., Illinois
Francis Creek Shale (Carboniferous, 307 MYA)
Donated by Earth Science Club of Illinois, 2013
CAS 2013.3.1

The Academy’s museum collection includes spectacular geology specimens from the Midwest and locations across North America. These specimens help illustrate how rocks and minerals are used in our society.

  • GEO20quartz20geode202 JPG 2048x1365

    Quartz Geode
    Geology collection
    No other data

  • GEO20149320 Uintahite20var20 Asphaltum203 JPG 2048x1365

    Gilsonite (“natural Asphalt”)
    Uintahite variety Asphaltum
    Frisco County, Utah
    Collected c1890
    Received from George H. Laflin
    CAS GEO 1493

  • GEO20gold20and20silver20ore20 Leadville20 CO202

    Gold and Silver Ore
    Leadville, Lake Co., Colorado
    Geology collection
    No other data

  • GEO20120 Sulfur202

    From geysers at Yellowstone Park, Wyoming
    Collected c1860
    Received from Mrs. E.E. Atwater, c1872
    CAS GEO 1

  • GEO20aluminum20thimble201 JPG scaled

    Aluminum Thimble
    Received from Frank C. Baker, c1920
    CAS GEO 515

Rivers in Illinois have changed considerably over the last 200 years and pollution has severely impacted many native species of clams, mussels, and snails. Introduced species, such as Quagga and Zebra mussels, are making an appearance in our waters as well.

  • MAL202235620 Alasmidonta20marginata202 JPG 2048x1578

    Elktoe mussel
    Alasmidonta marginata
    Glenwood Park, Fox River, Illinois
    Collected by Academy, Sept. 7, 1908
    CAS MAL 22356

  • MAL20180320 Quadrula20verrucosa202

    Pistolgrip mussel
    Quadrula verrucosa
    Illinois River
    Collected by W.W. Calkins, c1890
    CAS MAL 1803

  • MAL201278020 Dreissena20polymorpha202 JPG 2048x1493

    Zebra mussel
    Dreissena polymorpha
    London Docks, England
    Exchange, c1872
    CAS MAL 12780

  • MAL202013 5 1 1020 Dreissena20bugensis202 JPG 2048x1765

    Quagga mussel
    Dreissena bugensis
    Fullerton Beach, Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois
    Collected by Academy, July 9, 2013
    CAS 2013.5.1-10

BOT203775 120 Antennaria20parlinii20parlinii

This plant specimen from our botanic collection was collected by Floyd Swink, a prominent botanist who co-authored “Plants of the Chicago Region.” In 2013, Gerould Wilhelm, Swink’s coauthor, visited our collections facility to review some of our plant specimens and annotated several, including this one. These “conversations” left by researchers who utilize our collection adds to the scientific knowledge of those specimens.

Parlin’s Pussytoes
(Antennaria parlinii parlinii)
Palos Park, Cook Co., Illinois
Collected by Floyd A. Swink, May 17, 1952
Annotated by Gerould Wilhelm in 2013
CAS BOT 3775.1

Other specimens from our ornithology collection are also on display.

  • ORN201585920 Cyanocitta20cristata202 JPG 2048x1284

    Blue Jay ♂
    Cyanocitta cristata
    Mount Forest, Cook Co., Illinois
    Collected by B.T. Gault, January 9, 1890
    CAS ORN 15859

  • ORN20786220 Falco20peregrines20tundrius201 JPG 2048x817

    Peregrine Falcon ♂
    Falco peregrines tundrius
    Collinson Point, Alaska
    Collected by Chas. D. Brower, July 1934
    CAS ORN 7862

  • ORN20 Falco20peregrines

    Peregrine Falcon ♂
    Falco peregrines
    Ornithology collection
    No other data

MAM20451920 Sciurus20aberti201

Steve Sullivan, our Curator of Urban Ecology, studies squirrels and manages Project Squirrel. Locally in the Chicago area, we primarily have Grey and Fox squirrels. This species is found in the Southwest.

Abert’s Squirrel ♂
(Sciurus aberti)
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Collected by a Park Ranger, June 1965
CAS MAM 4519

ENT20 Catocalinae20moth20box

It is important to document species even if they’re not flashy or colorful. This one drawer of moths from our entomology collection contains species in the same subfamily, Catocalinae, that were found from across North America and span almost 80 years!

Catocalinae subfamily
Collected from: AZ, CA, FL, IA, IL, IN,
Collected between 1898 to 1976
Entomology collection

HERP201472 147920 Plethodon20glutinosus202 JPG scaled

Our herpetology collection, which includes amphibians and reptiles, is largely preserved in an ethyl alcohol solution. These salamanders were collected in Indiana.

Northern Slimy Salamander
(Plethodon glutinosus)
Turkey Run, Parke Co., Indiana
Collected by W.L. Necker, May 30, 1932
CAS HERP 1472-1479

Our display is located in the Beecher Lab in Wilderness Walk hall. Come visit the Nature Museum, see these marvelous specimens in person, and help us celebrate our natural heritage!

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