The museum opened in 1973, when Dr. Richard L. Sutton and UMKC Professor Eldon J. Parizek assembled much of the collection and display units. Sutton, a dermatologist, was an adjunct geology instructor who donated his personal collection of cephalopods (squid-like ocean dwellers) and fluid inclusions (rocks containing liquids) to the museum. An interactive feature allows viewers to tip one such specimen of clear quartz, and watch the trapped primordial water move.
A source of particular pride is the museum’s Crinoid collection. Crinoids, or “starfish on a stick,” were once abundant in downtown Kansas City when the area was ringed by a shallow sea. In 1889, excavators discovered at least 400 crinoid specimens at 10th and Grand. One hundred years later, at the urging of Missouri school kids, then-Governor John Ashcroft made the crinoid the official fossil of Missouri.
Another curiosity is an enormous fulgurite, or “lightening rock.” Lightning generates tremendous heat – as much as 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. When lightning strikes the earth, it fuses the silicon dioxide in its path into tube-shaped glass. The geosciences museum has just such a specimen, found in Clay County, Mo.
These and countless other mineral and fossil specimens are available for viewing by the public during the museum’s normal operating hours, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Group tours can be arranged by appointment. The museum is located on the Volker Campus in Flarsheim Hall, Room 271, and is curated by Dr. James Murowchick, Professor, and Dr. Richard Gentile, Professor Emeritus. Much of the museum’s fossil collection was amassed by Dr. Gentile on trips to the Badlands of South Dakota. Through UMKC’s Continuing Education program, Gentile continues to travel with student groups each summer, conducting research and searching for vertebrate fossils. In his retirement, he has continued showing the museum to visitors and school groups.
For more information, or to schedule a group museum tour, contact us at (816) 235-1334.