The last time our nation was being crushed by a crippling global economic depression, we did our darndest to paleontology our way out of trouble. That's right. The state of Texas was crawling with armies of fossil prospectors, preparators, mount makers, and researchers, all collecting, quite literally, tons of fossils. Sadly, WWII came along too soon, and therefore we don't have the historical precedent to show that employing paleontologists is the solution to our national woes. Even though it clearly is.
Anyway, the program was administered by the Works Progress Administration and directed by Dr. E.H. Sellards of the Bureau of Economic Geology. You can read more about the amazing work these folks did here, and here, and about continuing research on this material here. The specimens were brought to Austin for preparation and curation, and have mostly ended up in our collections. A number of these are on display at the TMM, some are exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History, and some at the Smithsonian. I've been working through VPL archives for documents and specimens to exhibit to showcase the history of some of this work, and in doing so have come across a large number of great photographs of the preparation process. I can't help but hear Tom Waits singing Alice when I look at these pictures.
[Note: Bloggers photo editing capabilities still suck, so these aren't organized coherently or even artistically, or even actually centered reliably. What is this, 2004?]
|Original caption: Scene in Preparator's Laboratory|
|Preparator reconstructing Glyptodon carapace|
|Preparation of the Onion Creek Mosasaur. This skeleton is still on display at the Texas Memorial Museum.|
|Another view of the preparation lab. The mosasaur skull is visible on the left.|
|The lab was in part of the University called "Little Campus". Great lighting.|
|Onion Creek Mosasaur skull.|
|Rhinoceros skull undergoing preparation.|
|Onion Creek Mosasaur lower jaws. I find this picture somewhat haunting.|
|Professor Emeritus Ernest Lundelius recalls visiting this lab as an undergraduate in the early 40s.|
|Preparators working on Texas mastodon bones.|