100 Years – 100 Objects: Diplodocus Brain Case

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from David Temple, the museum’s curator of paleontology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating fossils in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org/ – throughout the year.

Diplodocus Braincase-original - flippedThis curious item is the rear portion of the braincase from the Museum’s Diplodocus. This portion of the skull was recovered in the original 1902 excavation in Wyoming. The skeleton was studied in 1924, and the information derived from this bone and others indicated enough difference from other species of Diplodocus for classification as a separate subspecies, Diplodocus hayi, making it the holotype specimen and only mounted example of this subspecies in the world.

The braincase is not mounted with the rest of the skeleton. The skull mounted on our skeleton is from the sub-species Diplodocus carnegii. With the expansion and redesign of the Museum’s paleontology hall, the unique braincase will join a remounted Diplodocus on display.

D.hayi closeupOriginally collected by Carl Utterback for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg, the dinosaur was overshadowed by the Carnegie’s existing mount of a related subspecies, Diplodocus carnegii. Named for the museum’s principal benefactor, wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the specimen became the institution’s principal attraction with casts being given as gifts to museums around the world.

Mostly forgotten and relegated to storage at the Carnegie Museum, the dinosaur was acquired by Houston in 1962 with support from the Junior League of Houston. It became Houston’s first dinosaur citizen and was unveiled at HMNS in 1975.

Learn more about the ankylosaur: check out David’s post “Ankylosaur at HMNS: A 40-year mystery solved” Or, wander among prehistoric beasts in the Paleontology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Silver with Calcite

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Joel, the Museum’s President and Curator of Gems and Minerals. He’s chosen spectacular objects from the Museum’s mineralogy collection, which includes some of the most rare and fascinating mineral specimens in the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Silver with CalciteSilver with calcite
Kongsberg, Norway

Any great specimen of native wire silver is a rarity. The 13.2-cm specimen pictured here is particularly desirable because of the calcite crystals entangled in the wires, and especially because of the large and lustrous crystal of black sphalerite clinging to the uppermost wires.

Marvel at the world’s most spectacular collection of natural mineral crystals in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Teinopalpus Imperialis

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Nancy, the museum’s director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the rarest and most interesting insects in the Museum’s collections,that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Kaiser-I-Hind or Emperor of India or Teinopalpus imperialis

Kaiser-I-Hind or Emperor of India - Teinopalpus imperialis resizeThis stunning swallowtail is very rare, threatened both by over-collecting and by increasing destruction of its habitat.  Found in small pockets in northeastern India, Nepal, and Bhutan at 6,000 to 10,000 feet in the Himalayan mountains, it is today protected by Indian law but is still hunted illegally, as its unusual and beautiful coloration, and its rarity, make it highly prized by collectors.  Luckily, its strong, rapid, irregular flight and habit of perching high up in trees makes it difficult to capture.

The female (bottom photo), larger than the male, has several “tails” on the hindwing and large gray areas on both fore and hindwings.  The smaller male (top photos, upper side on left, underside on right) is a brighter green, with a brilliant yellow patch on the hindwing and only one tail.  Caterpillars feed on the leaves of trees in the laurel family.

Learn more about butterflies and their relatives in a visit to the new Brown Hall of Entomology, a part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center– a living, walk-through rainforest at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

100 Years – 100 Objects: Eccentric Flint

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dirk, the museum’s curator of anthropology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent human cultures throughout time and around the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org - throughout the year.

The Pre-Columbian Maya were excellent craftsmen, capable of producing exquisite pieces like this eccentric piece of chert. Some obsidian and chert tools were used as knives, spear points, etc.; this object had no direct utilitarian purpose.

Archaeologists and anthropologists like to classify items like these as “ceremonial,” meaning they had a purpose we can only guess at. Perhaps it was used as a symbol of political power, hence the term scepter, or manikin scepter.

Explore thousands of years of Native American history in the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org