Beloit Paleontological Collection

The paleontological collection at Beloit College was established in the late 1800’s and by the turn of the century contained more than 50,000 fossil specimens from across the world. Through the years the collection has been relocated multiple times among campus buildings, funding was not available to maintain a dedicated curator, and the collection was ultimately neglected and in some cases discarded when the campus shifted its focus to wartime efforts during the 1940’s. Since then, additional private collections have been donated to Beloit College, curation efforts have resumed albeit sporadically and with limited funding, and a number of educational displays have been constructed on campus. Although only a small portion of the original 19th-century collection exists, the current paleontological collection at Beloit College contains a number of historically and scientifically valuable specimens. According to our current records, the collection includes material collected by T.C. Chamberlin, the B.H. Beane Mississippian Crinoid Collection (~200 slabs with articulated crinoid assemblages and >350 individual crinoid specimens), a collection of La Brea Tar Pit fossils (>1400 vertebrate bones), the Coe College collection of Midwest Paleozoic invertebrate fossils (>500 taxa), the J.J. Rivers Collection of Cenozoic marine invertebrates (>800 taxa), and various other collections for a total specimen count approximating 5,000.

A curation and digitization effort led by undergraduate students is currently underway. The ultimate goal of these curation efforts is to enhance accessibility of this collection for teaching, research, and outreach. Current and future curation includes integration of all records (identification cards, ledgers, and correspondence) into a museum collection software database, adding new identification cards to each specimen with all available information, re-boxing specimens as needed, photographing all specimens, and creating a web interface for students and external users.