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Holder's Hideaway: The Whiteside Museum of Natural History

August 31 , 2016

by Zach Holder

A museum in Baylor County is taking us back to the days of the dinosaurs and the first reptiles.

The Whiteside Museum of Natural History is a fairly recent addition to the town of Seymour.

Opened just two years ago, the museum adds to the already existing paleontology culture in Seymour.

Since 1875, Baylor county has been home to many archeological dig sites.

All the sites the museum are actively working are within five miles of the museum.

Museum Director and Paleontologist, Christopher Flis, explains exactly what they're finding around Seymour.

"We're seeing some of the very first big, land-walking reptiles and amphibians which pre-date the true dinosaurs by 50-60 million years. Seymour is the best place in the world to see that story, to actually see it in the rocks and the fossils right here in town. Scientists from all over the world come right here to Seymour just to be able to look at these rocks,” says Flis.

Over the past eight years, four new animals have been discovered in Seymour.

Recently, Flis and his team have made more discoveries and are hoping to get those out in the public soon.

“We have genus of Dimetrodon, which is the most famous and most popular fin-backed animal and we're starting to see variations of that that nobody has seen before. That doesn't have a name yet and so that is what's exciting, the skeleton is different than what we've ever seen so we can give it a new name,” said Flis.

After a new fossil is discovered, they dig out the area around the fossil, wrap it in plaster and burlap to protect the bones, and remove it from the ground.

Some of these dirt samples can weigh up to 4 tons.

Once the fossils are taken out of the dig site, they're sent back to the museum in the lab where the dirt and dust are scraped off to reveal the fossils below.

Volunteers like Sandy Stripling work multiple times a week until the fossils are uncovered and ready to be studied or put on display.

This process can take anywhere from a few weeks up to a few years but Stripling says in the end it's worth all the work.

“This is so rewarding. I get to see something that no one else has ever seen. I get to take care of something that's 300 million years old and then I get to put it in a place where everybody gets to see it’, Stripling said.

The Whiteside Museum has partnerships with both the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Smithsonian.

Along with the fossils on display, the museum also has a reptile section where they have various live reptiles to look at including a nine-foot-long python.

The museum is open from 10am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12pm-4pm on Sundays.



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