This document was discovered in the Rutgers University Archives and is taken directly from a brochure that was created for the "Rutgers College Geological Museum" in 1899. William S. Valiant, who was the Assistant Curator of the museum at the time, wrote this text.
Geological Hall is near the center of the campus, west of "Queen's College." It is built of brown stone from the Connecticut Valley, and is the most conspicuous building on the campus. It was erected in 1871; just one hundred years after the College went into actual operations.* Exclusive of porch and steps, it is forty-five feet front by one hundred and five feet deep. On the second floor, after the basement, is a room forty by eighty-four feet, with a gallery six feet wide extending all around the room, eleven feet above the floor. The upper and lower class rooms open directly into this room by double doors.
The collections were commenced by a "Students' Natural History Society," which was organized in Van Nest Hall, June 30th, 1857, with Dr. Cook as chairman.
The principal features of the Museum are:
- The Cook collection of minerals, occupying six cases on the east side. This includes various collections; large, small, and single specimens, donated by friends of the College. Nearly all of the donations contained some rocks and fossils, which are placed in their proper groups
- The Lewis Caleb Beck collection of minerals, filling two large cases, and number 3,000 specimens, mostly collected from 1820 to 1850. This collection was purchased by friends of the College, and is preserved intact. Many of the specimens in the Beck collection were described by some of the old State Reports and text book, and it is a historic collection of great value to science.
- Two large cases north of the Beck collection, containing samples of the rocks, zinc and iron ores, clays, sands, and marls of New Jersey, including fossil bones, shells, and leaves found in the marls and clays. These specimens were collected by the Geological Survey between 1860 and 1880. A careful examination of this collection is an actual "Geological Survey of New Jersey," for all parts of the state are represented.
- On the west side are six cases, five of which are filled with fossils, classified according to their geological horizon. The first case on the west side containing 1,000 samples of rocks, and specimens illustrating structural geology.
- Near the center, toward the east side, is a case of Ellenville quartz crystals, some of the larger specimens showing crystal of galenite, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and brookite.
- West of the Ellenville case is another, filled with large specimens of minerals, rocks and fossils. The drawers on the east side of this case contain a collection of recent organic remains; the principal contributions to the fossiliferous rocks. Eight drawers on the west side contain a collection of American rocks and rock-making materials, presented by the United State Geological Survey to "the higher education institutions of the United States." This is a typical collection of great value.
- On the floor near the entrance is a slab of Triassic sandstone, 8x18 feet, from Morris Co., N.J., showing the footprints of fifteen species of dinosaurians, and one marsupialoid. This is undoubtably the largest and best single specimen of saurichnites in America, and perhaps in the world. Against the wall is the counterpart of this specimen, showing natural casts of the footprints, in relief; also mud cracks and rain prints.<
- The Mannington Mastodon, which was mounted in June, 1896, occupies a space 8x20 feet at the north end of the room. A larger or better specimen is not known anywhere.
- A diamond-drill core in the gallery, shows a section to a depth of 1378 feet of the rocks at the Franklin Zinc mines, in Sussex Co., N.J.
- Two cases in the north end show the fine collection of paleolithic and neolithic implements, ornaments, etc., numbering about 1,500 specimens. The most of these were collected by Rev. John Hatfield Frazee, and were presented by him to the museum. This is known as the Frazee Collection. The specimens are labeled and numbered, and a descriptive catalog is kept in a drawer, convenient for reference.
- In various places are basaltic columns and miniature trap dikes, fossil tree-trunks, the celebrated eurypterid-- Stylonurus excelsior, large rock specimens, maps, charts, photographs, etc. Besides specimens belonging strictly to geology and mineralogy, there is a collection of 1,550 recent shells; a botanical collection; large tree sections; a Japanese spider-crab measuring 11 feet 6 inches; the skeleton of a Right Whale 42 feet long, which as caught in the Raritan; large antlers, etc.
A collection of minerals belong to Professor A. H. Chester, Curator of the Museum, numbering nearly 5,000 specimens, is deposited in the lecture room, where it is used to illustrate lectures in mineralogy. It is also in constant use as a reference collection, to supplement the College collections, in the determination of specimens sent to this laboratory for examination. Many rare and valuable foreign mineral have been added to Professor Chester's collection, a result of a recent tour through Europe.
There is also a good reference library and various accessories used in the determination of specimens; an indispensable part of any working museum.
All of the collections have been relabeled and classified, and are nearly finished. But accessions are constantly being made in all department, by purchase, exchange and gift; consequently, it never will be completed finished, for this is, like all good museums, a growing institution. The most important of the unfinished specimens are the whale's skeleton and the giant crab. All of the missing parts of the whale-- including the "whale-bone"-- are in an upper room waiting for the means for reconstruction. This, and the big crab, when properly mounted, will help greatly toward finishing the museum.
A day-book record is kept of all additions to the museum; also an alphabetical list of the name of donors, with a general list of what they have given; the label on each specimen also bears the donor's name whenever it can be obtained.
The collections in Mineralogy, Lithology, Paleontology, Archaeology, and Conchology, numbering about 20,000 specimens, are well adapted to the study of all branches of these sciences. There are some gaps, and many specimens could be improved; donations are solicited from friends of the College to increase the collection, and to aid in the illustration of the subject taught.
The commonest specimens have their place even in the finest collections. A museum adds dignity to a trifle; a pebble teaches the same lesson with the hundred ton boulder; the skeleton of a mouse occupies as much space in science as does the mastodon's huge frame. What seems a worthless object to the minds of many, becomes endowed with interest when properly mounted and labeled: and the object is seen to have a definite relation to other equally common specimens with which it is associated.
Rutgers Museum is not a collection of freaks and curios, but a collection of scientific specimens, each one illustrating some important part of the sciences taught.
The register shows an average of 3,000 visitors each year, besides students, and they are from all parts of the world. The museum is free to all students of science, or visitors, on week days. A collector and student of more than forty years' experience, is constantly present, to show and to answer questions pertaining to the collection, or the sciences represented.
The collections are of interest, not only to the student or advanced scientist, but to the ordinary visitor. Societies, clubs, schools of all kinds, scientific specialists, and the ordinary seeker after pleasure, find the museum a pleasant place to spend an hour.
Many bring or send specimens for identification, or ask for scientific information, and our correspondents are in all part of the United States. By the latter means many good specimens are obtained or the collections, and many friends and acquaintances made.
It is safe to say that, by the latter means, hundreds have become familiar with Rutgers College who hardly knew of its existence before Geological Hall was opened as a free public museum, and it is increasingly in interest each year.
But no free public institution is ever self-sustaining; and the Cook Museum of Geology is no exception to the rule. Many improvements have been made, but more are needed; and material aid will prove of mutual benefit.
W.S. VALIANT, Assistant Curator.
* "His Majesty's Letters Patent and Charter of Royal Grant for Queen's College" was secured on November 10th, 1766.