Family Life of the Dinosaur Supports Lessons in Paleontology

Rare Look at the Life of Dinosaurs Through the Lens of their Eggs, Nests & Young

Young paleontologists unite! Resources for learning about dinosaurs abound here in western Massachusetts. From museum exhibits to hands-on paleontology activities to natural wonders, our region is rich with experiential and place-based opportunities for learning about the prehistoric creatures of the past.

Trends come and go, but there are some topics which fascinate children across generations. One such topic is dinosaurs! Extinct species tell us a lot about evolution, biology, and the history of the Earth. Dinosaurs are particularly interesting because of their, in some cases, massive size. While birds are modern day descendants of dinosaurs, it is a challenging and fun exercise to try to imagine bird-like creatures being much bigger than humans, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which stood up to twenty feet tall! See a life-sized replica at the Springfield Museums and an actual skull at the Beneski Museum at Amherst College (both in their permanent collections) for an exciting comparison of just HOW much bigger these creatures were! Read the rest of this entry »

Dino-Centric Studies in Western MA

Upcoming Events Highlight Local Paleontology Connections

Western Massachusetts’ natural history is one of epic proportions – dinosaurs loved our local landscape! In addition to the numerous year-round community-based opportunities to explore paleontology, families can take advantage of upcoming community events in order to further explore dino-centric studies, including Dinosaur Hunter, Paul Sereno!

Here in western Massachusetts, dinosaurs play a huge role in the history of our landscape.

A wealth of community-based educational resources help to support paleontological studies of all kinds, and the local connection to dinosaurs can help budding paleontologists put their dinosaur-centric knowledge into a local context.

To support locally based studies of all things dinosaurs, families can utilize learning opportunities offered by two upcoming events.

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Local History: Greenfield Home to First Dinosaur Museum in the Country!

Greenfield’s Lost Museum: Dexter Marsh and the Dinosaur Tracks

The town of Greenfield was once home to a world famous museum – it drew a stunning 3,000 visitors in just 7 years! The museum, opened during the mid-19th century by a local jack-of-all-trades named Dexter Marsh, was home to the first ever dinosaur tracks to receive a thorough and official scientific examination. What happened to the tracks? And what happened to the museum? Find out more about this fascinating piece of Pioneer Valley past at Greenfield Community College’s Sloan Theater on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 7pm. Presented by the Pioneer Valley Institute. 1 College Drive. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Many local people know that Dexter Marsh (1806-1853), quarrier — stonemason, janitor, handyman, and jack-of-all-trades in 19th-century Greenfield, MA — was among the first to discover dinosaur footprints, but how many know that he opened one of the first dinosaur museums in the country? In 1835, when he first saw the prints, he thought they had been left by very large birds — and professional geologists agreed with him. These became the first known tracks in the world ever to receive a thorough scientific examination, performed by a professor at Amherst College named Edward Hitchcock.

In the following years, the largely self-educated Marsh learned about paleontology and built an extra room onto his house to exhibit his collection. From 1846 to 1853, an astonishing 3,000 people signed the visitors’ register of his house-museum, including such famous Americans as Oliver Wendell Holmes and even travelers from Europe and the Near East. At his early death in 1853, Marsh’s museum was dispersed at public auction, split mostly between Amherst College and what is today the Boston Museum of Science.

By looking into his daybooks and visitors’ registry in the archives at Amherst College, Dr. Robert Herbert has given Dexter Marsh the most thorough examination to date, bringing the man and his museum from obscurity back into the light. On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 7pm, using maps, photographs, and illustrations, Dr. Herbert will give a lively talk about this brilliant day laborer whose curiosity moved him into another world. It is our great good fortune that Dr. Herbert, formerly an art historian at Yale University and later Mount Holyoke College, has long been interested in the history of geology. In recent years, he has written about Edward Hitchcock and Orra White Hitchcock and continues to delve into the history of dinosaur footprints in the Connecticut River Valley.

Dr. Herbert’s talk will take place at Greenfield Community College, Main Campus, Sloan Theater (Main Building, South Wing).  For more info contact Cynthia Herbert at

Submitted by Cynthia Herbert. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Greenfield.

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