Museum of Geology History
By: J.R. Macdonald, edited and modified by Heidi Minkler and James Martin
The Museum is as old as the School of Mines and Technology. In 2010 both celebrated their 125th anniversary.
1885 – Construction of the prep building was initiated with the letting of a contract for its construction on the 23rd of June 1885. On the same day a letter from Mr. G.E. Bailey offering the loan of a collection of minerals and fossils was received by the Board of Trustees. This “Cabinet”, as such were called in those days, was said to have contained over 5,000 specimens. The offer was accepted and the “Cabinet” was shipped to Rapid City from Cheyenne where it had been stored.
Over the years minerals, ores rocks, and fossils were added to the basic Bailey collection which remained the main part of the exhibit. Eventually, with the loss of labels and the mixing with other specimens, the collection lost its identity.
1899 – Cleophas C. O’Harra led the first expedition into the Badlands. The School of Mines Canyon was discovered and named. SDSM 001, an alligator snout, was collected and is the first official specimen for the museum collections and is now on display in the museum.
1903 – The Department of Geology and Mineralogy moved to the “Main” Building (the arch remains standing from this building on the quad) where the collections could be properly housed and protected from loss.
1904 – Two large relief maps of the Black Hills were made by E.E. Howell of Washington, D.C., for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. These were later given to the Museum where one is on display while the other is displayed in the Library.
1923 – Serious fossil collecting began. Glenn L. Jepsen, a geology student interested in fossils, spent the summer working for the American Museum of Natural History with its field party in western Nebraska. At the end of the summer he collected the Agate Springs rhino slab which is now on display in the Museum. Two students, James D. Bump and LeMoyne Cook, prepared the slab for exhibit. This is the first summer the Museum opened to the public. This is the first summer the Museum was open to the public.
1924 – Jepsen took charge of collecting activities. With students Almyr Bump and Hugo Schlaiker he concentrated on the White River Badlands. The most outstanding find was a virtually complete aligator skeleton from the Chadron Formation. This skeleton is on display with the White River habitat group.
1925 – Jepsen visited the American Museum where he learned a number of preparation and casting techniques and did some specimen trading which brought a cast of the skull of Tyrannosaurus to the Museum. Upon his return he, LeMoyne Cook, and James Bump collected a large Xiphactinus (fish) skeleton southeast of Hot Springs.
During these years the Museum became a popular attraction. In 1923, there were 4,000 visitors, 8,000 in 1924, and 12,000 in 1925.
1927 – The fine Triceratops skull on display was collected from the Hell Creek Formation near Camp Crook.
1930 – James Bump (B.S., South Dakota School of Mines and Technology) became Director of the Museum. Mr. Bump graduated in 1929 with a degree in Metalurgy. He was prepared to take an offered position in industry when President O’Harra offered him the Directorship.
1940 – Mr. Bump and his associates made an important collection of Whitneyan fossils from south of the White River and east of Rockyford under the auspices of the National Geographic Society.
1944 – The O’Harra Building was completed in 1944 and the Museum moved to the upper story. Here there was sufficient room for large mounted skeletons and expanded displays. What is now the South Dakota Mineral Hall was then part of the laboratory.
1949 – Dr. James Reid Macdonald arrived to become the first Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Assistant Professor of Geology.
1950 – Dr. Morton Green joined the staff. During the summer, Drs. Bump, Green, Macdonald and Mr. Martin, under the sponsorship of Ray E. Lemley, M.D., collected camel skeletons in Nebraska. The Stenomylus quarry was on the Harold J. Cook ranch at Agate, Nebraska. This is now part of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
1951 – First guidebook for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings by Bump and Macdonald.
1962 - Dr. Robert W. Wilson was appointed Director of the Museum and with Dr. J.P. Gries instituted the Master’s degree in Paleontology.
1962 - Dr. Morton Green, Chairman of the Department of Biology, was appointed Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology upon the departure of Dr. Macdonald and initiates studies of Miocene vertebrates.
1968 – Merton Bowman came to the Museum as Preparator and Curator of Exhibits. With Willard Roberts, Curator of Mineralogy from 1969-1973, he completely re-did the Mineral and rock exhibits. These outstanding exhibits set a standard for other museums.
1969 – Dr. Wilson receives grant monies from National Geographic Society for expeditions into the White River Badlands.
1974 – Dr. Wilson retired and Mr. Roberts became Director of the Museum.
1974 – Representative Grace Mickelson initiated a bill in the state legislature that confirmed the Museum as an entity within the School of Mines and indicated its role as responsible for the state’s paleontology/geology resources.
1975 – Dr. Philip R. Bjork was appointed Director.
1979 - Dr. James E. Martin returned to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology as assistant professor of geology and director of the field station.
1979 – The Museum of Geology initiated the first Field Paleontology expeditions.
1980 – The Lange/Ferguson mammoth, a Clovis kill mammoth, was collected.
1982 – The Tyrannosaurus skull was collected from the Hell Creek Formation in Butte and Harding counties.
1983 – Dr. James E. Martin assumed the position of Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology upon the retirement of Dr. Green. Collections and laboratories are moved from the O’Harra building into the Old Gym.
1983-4 – Dr. James Martin receives first of three National Geographic Society grants for marine reptile research; two short-necked plesiosaur skeletons resulted.
1985 – The school and the museum celebrated its 100th anniversary and hosted the National Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology! Second guidebook completed for meetings by Dr. Martin and the first of five books edited by Martin.
1986 - Cooperation for field paleontology expeditions initiated between the Museum and the New Jersey State Museum by James Martin and David Parris, resulting in thousands of Late Cretaceous specimens collected over 23 years.
1989 – Dr. Martin receives first of 20 grants to research Pleistocene and late Tertiary vertebrates in Oregon.
1990 – Dr. James E. Martin acquires first Collections/Curation Improvement grant for the Museum from the National Science Foundation; as a result, Ms. Janet Whitmore is hired as first Collections Manager.
1993 – The Big Pig Dig in the Badlands was discovered by visitors in Badlands National Park. The School of Mines became involved in the ensuing years and many paleontology students worked the quarry each summer until 2008 when the bone bed and the funding ran dry.
1994 – Ms. Carrie Herbel is hired as Collections Manager following the departure of Ms. Whitmore.
1998-2005 – Dr. James Martin becomes involved in Antarctic and Australian expeditions.
1999 – Dr. James Martin recognized for Antarctic discoveries by the Royal Geographical Society of London.
2000 – Gale Bishop became museum director until 2005 and donates personal decapod collection.
2004, 2006 – Dr. James Martin presents News Conferences concerning Antarctic discoveries at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for the National Science Foundation.[you may not want this one]
2004 – Geological Map of South Dakota published by Dr. Martin and colleagues.
2006 – Baby plesiosaur and baby mosasaur from Antarctica unveiled at Museum.
2007 – Ms. Heidi Minkler hired as Museum Manager for display museum.
2007 – Geological Society of America Special Paper concerning the Pierre Shale published with James Martin and David Parris, editors.
2008 – Dr. James Martin became Executive Curator of Paleontology.
2008 – Ms. Sally Shelton is hired as Collections Manager.
2009 – Ground breaking and construction for the new Paleontology Center begins, this is the culmination of a 20-year endeavor spearheaded by Martin. The Paleontology center has been needed for many years to house our growing collection and our state of the art labs. The Museum celebrates 30 years of field camps with a special gathering on the Missouri River near Pickstown, SD!
2010 - The Paleontology Research Laboratory is completed and the building is dedicated in September.
2011 - The Paleontology Research Laboratory is renamed the James E. Martin Paleontology Research Laboratory.
2011 - Dr. Laurie Anderson becomes the new Museum Director in August
Important People in the Museum’s History
Mr. Gilbert E. Bailey – Offered a loan of 5,000 mineral and fossil specimens to the School of Mines in 1885. The loan was eventually made into a donation. This donation was the basis for the now very large Museum of Geology collection which is now over 300,000.
Valentine McGillycuddy – Born February 14, 1849, McGillycuddy was the chief topographer of the Newton-Jenney Survey of the Black Hills in 1875. He completed the 1st known ascent of Harney Peak (highest point in SD) on July 24, 1875, with Prof. Henry Newton, Captain Tuttle, & Lt. Foote of the Newton-Jenney Expedition. He was the 6th dean of the School of Mines from 1893-1897, and the mayor of Rapid City from 1896-1898. He died June 6, 1939 at the age of 90. His ashes are buried in a crypt at the top of Harney Peak with the inscription “Wasicu Wakan”…Holy Medicine Man. He donated some of his survey equipment, used in the 1875 survey, to the Museum which is currently on display.
Cleophas C. O’Harra – Born November 4, 1866 in Illinois, he was a professor of mineralogy at the School of Mines from 1898 to 1911. He was president of the school of mines form 1911-1935, and died February 21 of that year. The Museum of Geology is a fitting public monument to this great leader. In 1898 he started with a small collection of minerals, ores, and fossils that had been loaned to the school. With much labor and despite many discouragements he gradually added to this collection and made it something of real scientific value. One of its primary features is the excellent collection of Tertiary vertebrates from the Badlands. This was one of Dr. O’Harra’s chief interests, and he actively directed field exploration and collecting over a period of many years. This exploration was highly successful and has resulted in the accumulation of one of the most representative collections of its kind in existence. It was President O’Harra’s dream that things of an historical nature belonged “to the public…they belong in a public place to see and enjoy.”
Glenn L. Jepsen
Dr. James Bump
Harold E. Martin – Graduated in 1931 with a B.S. in Mining Engineering. Like Dr. Bump he spent many undergraduate hours collecting and preparing fossils for display. Upon graduation he went into industry and then in the Navy during the war years. After the war he came to the Museum as preparator, a position he held until his death in 1967. His first major tasks were the mounting of the mosasaur, plesiosaur, brontothere, and duckbill skeletons. These skeletons are still major attractions in the Museum.
Dr. James R. Macdonald – In 1949, Dr. James R. Macdonald (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) came here to be Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Assistant Professor of Geology. This freed Bump from his teaching duties so he could dedicate all of his time to Museum affairs. Before leaving the Museum in 1957, he designed the White River Badlands exhibit which Mr. H. Martin so beautifully executed. Upon his retirement in 1980, he returned to his beloved South Dakota and with his wife Mary Lee became Museum volunteers.
Dr. Morton Green
Dr. John Clark
Dr. Robert W. Wilson
Mr. Merton Bowman
Mr. Willard Roberts - Bill was successively research associate (part-time 1963-1966, full-time 1966-1969), curator of mineralogy (1969-1973), director (1974-1975), and finally senior curator of mineralogy and invertebrate paleontology until his death in 1987. The South Dakota Hall of Minerals in the Museum of Geology is named after him.
Dr. Philip R. Bjork – Dr. Philip R. Bjork (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) was appointed Director in 1975. Dr. Bjork was familiar with this area as his Master’s thesis was on the vertebrate fossils of the Slim Buttes, returned to the 1940 National Geographic sites on Palmer Creek, and worked other parts of the Badlands including the Cedar Pass area.
Dr. James E. Martin – Dr. Martin was “bitten by the fossil bug” when Harold Martin talked to one of his classes at Edgemont High School. He received a B.S. in Geology, and a M.S. in Paleontology here at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology before going to the University of Washington for his doctorate. He returned a “Jack of all trades” in Biology and Geology as well as doing curatorial work and research of fossil mammals at the Museum. He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2008.