The Hall of Ancient Life


When the new VMNH building opened in 2007, it featured 5 main exhibit halls. The largest of these, at around 30 meters in length, was the Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall (named for a major sponsor). The Great Hall initially featured casts of “Caroline” (Eobalaenoptera harrisoni) and “Big Al” (Allosaurus fragilis), windows into the exhibit labs, and cases around the support beams with rotating exhibits. A few items, such as the Boxley stromatolite, have been added over the years, but the Great Hall has remained largely empty except for special events and party rentals.
That’s changing, beginning tonight. This week we’re opening a new exhibit called “Dinosaurs” that includes a number of cast skeletons on loan from other museums. These skeletons, including Acrocanthosaurus atokensis (below), are mostly being exhibited in the Great Hall.


“Dinosaurs” will be open through August, but we don’t intend to return to an empty Great Hall. Our hope is to raise enough funds to put several additional cast skeletons on permanent display, as well as additional bones from Wyoming and Carmel Church. To reflect the change in function, in a ceremony tonight we officially renamed the hall the Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Hall of Ancient Life.

If you haven’t been to VMNH recently, I encourage you to stop by to see the changes in our exhibit. If you’re interested in making a donation to support our efforts to fill the Hall of Ancient Life with new skeletons, please contribute to the VMNH Discovery Fund.

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6 Responses to The Hall of Ancient Life

  1. Doug says:

    sounds exciting! as usual, i wish i could see it! I wish wish i had money to give you. I could possibly get you a giant oyster and barnacles, but i know that’s not as important or impressive as the $$$.

    What other casts are you thinking of throwing in? cause i certainly have a few ideas.

  2. altondooley says:

    Personally I’d like to see Tylosaurus, Cervalces, and Castoroides, of things I know have already been molded. There are also several things that have not been molded that I’d like to see (such as Squalodon whitmorei).

  3. Doug says:

    how hard can it be? In a relatively recent post Bobby had a picture of a squalodont skeleton at the Charleston Museum. But in that vein, who else would you like to see who hasn’t been molded yet?

  4. altondooley says:

    Molding a skeleton is pricy. Even a small whale could cost tens of thousands of dollars to mold. The compound we use is around $100/gallon.

    Very few Miocene whales have been molded, so there are several I’d like to see. We are planning to mold quite a lot of Carmel Church material if we can raise the money.

    There are also some Triassic critters I’d like to see molded, such as Doswellia.

  5. Doug says:

    Ouch. Yeah i can see how that limits your options and why many museums simply buy casts of already molded specimens.

    Might the Powerpuff Girls will be a part of that? Didn’t Blossom have some post cranial material that could be fleshed out a little (probably not, given the work it’s taken to reconstruct Buttercup)? And has anything more of all three whales come to light?

    Maybe you could exhibit Doswellia having words with Tawa. just a thought!

  6. altondooley says:

    None of the Powerpuff Girls have any postcranial material, and even the cranial material is limited. We are planning to mold Buttercup’s skull after Ray finishes the reconstruction (see the “Reconstructing Buttercup” posts, but that’s a little easier because we know what taxon Buttercup is. So far I haven’t been able to assign Blossom or Bubbles to a species, which will make reconstructing them much tougher. Even so, if we can secure funding for the Carmel Church traveling exhibit I hope to mold all three of them.

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