Martinsville Museum Making Replicas of Fossils

Martinsville, VA - The Virginia Museum of Natural History may soon share some of their fossils with other museums, without the specimens ever leaving Martinsville. The museum has started replicating fossils in larger quantities than ever before.

The museum has shared only a couple of cases of replica fossils in the past, but they have wanted to make full exhibits. Recently, they received more funding to hire more technical support and increase production.

"These are irreplaceable specimens, often one of a kind. So we want to protect them as much as we can," said Alton Dooley, Curator of Paleontology.

Over the years, only a few of these fossils have been damaged through transportation. A few is too many for Dooley, however.

"They managed to survive 14,000,000 years without anybody destroying them. It's sad when we damage one," said Dooley.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History's Paleontologists remain the only people who can gather specimens at the Virginia-based Caramel Church Quarry.

"It's one of the richest fossil deposits anywhere in the eastern United States. It's an incredible number of fossils packed into a very small area," said Dooley.

"Our primary mission is to educate people about the natural world and we don't want to just do it in Martinsville," said Joe Keiper, Executive Director of the museum.

The historic museum started reproducing the fossils in greater quantities, to send off and show off their findings.

"We want to really publicize this site," said Dooley.

The replicas look so similar to the originals, many people can't tell the difference.

"A traveling exhibit provides that opportunity to reach out to new audiences but at the same time too generates some revenue to support education programs, exhibit programs, and so forth," said Keiper.

The museum plans to start sending them off next year. They say the exhibit now has the potential to be sent anywhere, even to other countries.