New Hubbard Rhino Barn at Ashfall promises unique fossil experience
Released on 06/19/2009, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Visitors to the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park near Royal can share the same joy and adventure as the paleontologists who discover fossils each day in the newly opened Hubbard Rhino Barn.
The new building covers 17,500 square-feet -- eight times larger than the one it replaces -- and allows for the discovery and protection of many more fossils and enhances the experiences for visitors to the unique park. Visitors experience a firsthand look at the extinct animals preserved exactly as they died, and all new fossil excavations are carried out in their full view.
The park, a joint project of the University of Nebraska State Museum and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, contains skeletons of extinct rhinos, camels, horses and hundreds of other animals lying in the volcanic ash that killed them 12 million years ago.
The Friends of the University of Nebraska State Museum and other donors began launching a fundraising campaign for the new Rhino Barn several years ago after the original small building could no longer accommodate further fossil excavations. Plans for construction of the new Hubbard Rhino Barn began in 2007 when the Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation of Omaha announced a $1.2 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation for construction of the facility to greatly expand the active fossil site. In recognition of the family's support, the new facility was named the Hubbard Rhino Barn.
Ted Hubbard said he hopes this barn will inspire children and encourage them to learn more about the sciences.
The Hubbard Rhino Barn will be dedicated today by officials from the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as well as members of the Hubbard family of Omaha.
"Nothing is more exciting for visitors to watch than the discovery of new fossil finds as the bones are uncovered by skilled paleontologists," said Priscilla Grew, director of the University of Nebraska State Museum. "The new Rhino Barn will present paleontology live -- the excitement of the dig is going to inspire people of all ages. Kids will experience scientific research and discovery in action, they can ask real paleontologists questions about fossils, and they can share in the thrill of learning about the amazing animals that roamed Nebraska millions of years ago.
"We are deeply grateful to the Hubbard family and to all the generous donors who have made this new facility a dream come true for the state."
Mark Harris, associate director of the NU State Museum, said, "We're eager to witness the unveiling of another piece of Nebraska's rich fossil history as discoveries come to life in our new world-class facility. We hope that the fascinating creatures soon to be found at Ashfall will spark the curiosity of many budding young scientists."
Since studies began at Ashfall in the 1970s, more than 200 fossil skeletons from 12 species of Clarendonian Land Mammal Age have been discovered at the site. In 2006, the park was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. government and was the first to receive such distinction in more than 18 years.
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is 2 miles west and 6 miles north of Royal, Neb. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 18. Children age 5 and younger are admitted free. A valid Nebraska State Park Permit is required and may be purchased onsite; day permits are $4 annual permits are $20. For additional visitor information call (402) 893-2000 or see www.ashfall.unl.edu.
The University of Nebraska Foundation is a private, nonprofit corporation that has raised private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for 73 years. Last year, it provided more than $130 million -- the most ever -- for students, faculty, academic programs, research, and for campus and building improvements on all four campuses. More information is available at www.nufoundation.org.
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park and the Hubbard Rhino Barn
* Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is the only known site in the world where entire three-dimensional skeletons of large prehistoric animals are preserved.
* The volcanic ash from a volcano in what is today Idaho killed hundreds of animals, including rhinos, camels, three-toed horses, and birds, among others, and preserved their remains in exquisite detail.
* The fossil site was discovered in 1971 when Mike Voorhies, emeritus professor and curator of vertebrate paleontology, discovered the skull of a baby rhinoceros eroding from the wall of a ravine at the edge of a cornfield on Melvin Colson's farm in northern Antelope County.
* Nebraska's newest state park, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park opened to the public June 1, 1991. Located 6 miles north of U.S. Highway 20 between Royal and Orchard, the park is a joint project of the University of Nebraska State Museum and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
* More than 350 full skeletons and 25,000 isolated fossil specimens have been documented at the site. Paleontologists are certain many more will be located in coming years inside the new Hubbard Rhino Barn.
* Of the approximately half-dozen enclosed fossil sites in North America, Ashfall Fossil Beds is the only facility where paleontologists continue to unearth large skeletons that resemble real animals.
* A portion of the large fossil bed was enclosed in 1991, giving the general public a firsthand look at the extinct animals preserved exactly as they died. All excavations at Ashfall Fossil Beds are carried out in full view of the visiting public.
* On average, about 20,000 to 30,000 people visit Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park each year. Nearly 400,000 people have visited the park since it opened 17 years ago.
* Dozens of students from across the nation and around the world research Ashfall's geology and paleontology, and approximately 150 University of Nebraska students have gained practical field research experience as paleontological interns at the site. Six to eight university students work at the site at any given time.
Hubbard Rhino Barn
* Plans to expand the enclosed fossil exploration facility began in 2007 when the Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation of Omaha announced a $1.2 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation.
* The new Hubbard Rhino Barn is eight time times larger than the enclosure it replaced and features 17,500 square feet of enclosed space to protect the fossil bed and allow researchers to locate even more fossil specimens. A temporary roof was constructed over the exposed fossils while the previous facility was carefully dismantled and the new facility was constructed over its top.
* The expanded facility is named after the Hubbard family of Omaha.
* The building is called the Rhino Barn because the most common animal located at the fossil site has been the barrel-bodied rhinoceros (Teleoceros major).
* The Hubbard Family Foundation also provided funding for a new Discovery Pavilion for the park. This facility is used to process and research the many smaller fossils found and was used to collect the fossils found during construction of the Hubbard Rhino Barn.