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Paleontological Research Institution Announces New Exhibit: Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology

March 30, 2021 1:00 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Ithaca, NYThe Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is excited to announce the opening of the Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology exhibit, The exhibit has two components, a temporary exhibit at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca until Fall 2021, as well as an online version that can be accessed anywhere in the world. The physical and online exhibit will open to the public on Saturday, March 27. 

Early in the history of paleontology, the contributions of women were often in the shadows...A lot of the focus on the history of paleontology is on the sensational stories of larger-than-life male figures,” says Elizabeth Hermsen, Research Scientist at PRI, who has been working on developing the content for the exhibit. She says that she hopes that visitors leave the exhibit seeing the progress that has been made in the field as they compare the women and stories in the historical section of the exhibit with those in the modern section of the exhibit.

Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology represents the history of women working in paleontology beginning in the 1600s through to contemporary times. It profiles some of the most influential women paleontologists, past and present, while looking at the broader social contexts in which they lived. The exhibit allows visitors to explore the lives of women paleontologists, learn about the prejudices they faced and still face today, and discover some of their greatest accomplishments. 

Helaina Blume, Director of Exhibitions, turned to social media to request submissions from current women paleontologists in the field so she could share their stories in the exhibit. Many of the submissions were from women who recently received their Ph.D and grad students just starting their careers. “One of our goals with the exhibit was to inspire girls and women to get involved in STEAM and we believe highlighting mentors and role models can help do just that,” she says.

The project began with the publication of a children’s book, Daring to Dig: Adventures of Women in American Paleontology, written by former PRI Director of Exhibitions, Beth Stricker, and illustrated by Alana McGillis. Through colorfully illustrated vignettes that are carried into the physical exhibition design, the book and exhibit show children that paleontology is a science for everyone, while also breaking down complex scientific ideas in a simple and fun way. 

Beth Stricker says, “I hope that the exhibition welcomes young women and girls to the world of paleontology and shows them that no matter the subject or workplace—invertebrates or vertebrates; in the field, in labs, libraries, classrooms, or art studios—there’s a place for them. I also want them to realize that although much has changed in the sciences over the last few decades, there is still much to strive for. But no one is on their own. We are standing on the shoulders of these amazing women in history and standing together with the most diverse generation of paleontologists yet.”

The physical exhibit will open to the public on March 27, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the museum is currently limiting the number of visitors at a time and encourages guests to make reservations online. Those who are not able to attend the physical exhibit can view the online exhibit at www.daringtodig.org.The online exhibit will also showcase a collection of biographies of modern women paleontologists from all across the U.S., as well as additional resources for further education. 

This project has been made possible with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, BorgWarner, Association of Science & Technology Centers IF/THEN, Humanities New York, Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and the Paleontological Society. 

About the Paleontological Research Institution 

The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) pursues and integrates education and research, and interprets the history and systems of the Earth and its life, to increase knowledge, educate society, and encourage wise stewardship of the Earth. PRI and its two public venues for education, the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center, are separate from, but formally affiliated with Cornell University, and interact closely with numerous University departments in research, teaching, and public outreach.

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The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. We provide advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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