New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

Grant funding helps NM Museum of Natural History & Science store large fossils safely and securely

August 17, 2022

Stephen Hamway

Albuquerque, NM- A recent grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will make it easier for New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) to keep its largest fossils protected for future generations to enjoy. 

NMMNHS’s Geoscience Department received a $195,533 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, intended to improve the care and access of approximately 1,400 oversized fossil specimens from New Mexico’s largest repository of fossils. This collection includes many scientifically and educationally valuable holotypes: fossils that are designated as the name-bearing representatives for their entire species.  

"Large fossils are challenging to care for because they are both heavy and delicate,” said NMMNHS Geoscience Collections Manager Nicole Volden. “This grant will help us create better storage for these specimens so that they are well protected and accessible for research, exhibits, and education." 

The fossils that will be protected include some of New Mexico’s most prized and scientifically significant discoveries, such as giant mammals and tortoises from the last 23 million years, iconic Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, massive inland sea ammonites, and crocodile-size amphibians and reptiles that ruled the rivers and lakes of New Mexico over 200 million years ago. Many of these 1,400 fossils range from 20 to 100 pounds, and a few weigh up to several tons. 

Under the conditions of the grant, museum staff working with paid interns and volunteers will rehouse the specimens safely and securely using archival storage mounts and long-lasting polyethylene pallets.  

From there, they will reorganize and move part of the oversized collections to a new collections storage space to reduce overcrowding and barcode the oversized specimen containers and mounts. They will then be added to the museum’s collection management database’s object tracking module. 

"Our fossils are part of the State’s and nation’s natural heritage. This grant will help us protect these fossils for current and future generations,” Volden said. 

The support comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. The organization works to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. The institute’s vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit 

About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Trustees of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation, through the generous support of donors. Established in 1986, the mission of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is to preserve and interpret the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. The NMMNHS offers exhibitions, programs, and workshops in Geoscience, including Paleontology and Mineralogy, Bioscience, and Space Science. It is the Southwest’s largest repository for fossils and includes a Planetarium and a large format 3D DynaTheater. 

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