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Reaching the Masses: #MuseumSelfieDay, National Fossil Day 2018, and Social Media

Sarah’s behind-the-scenes #MuseumSelfie, photographing a fossil specimen in the collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.

Today is #MuseumSelfieDay, a hashtag event on Twitter that encourages people to visit their local museums, be it art, history, or natural history, and take selfies with their favorite exhibits, displays, and finds to share with the world. It’s a fantastic use of social media to bring awareness to museums and to encourage visitors to learn something new and share it with others. It’s also a simple way for scientists at natural history museums to share their work and research by taking behind-the-scenes museum selfies that show their daily life, their work and research, and what it takes to maintain those very things that museums protect. I encourage you to check out the feed on Twitter here, in its several iterations: #MuseumSelfieDay, #MuseumSelfieDay2018, or simply #MuseumSelfie. And if you are a scientist reading this blog today, share your own #MuseumSelfie! Let others see you in action, or just share an exhibit you love!

All of this brings me to my main point, how can museums engage the public and get them interested in science? Well, paleontology is truly a blessed field in this regard, as dinosaurs and other fossils are (in my humble opinion), the coolest, awesomest things around. Truly, paleontologists don’t have to work too hard to convey their excitement about fossils because, well, fossils are just pretty damn awesome by themselves.

But the topic isn’t the problem, reaching those that need exposure to science is the problem. Not all children can just hop on over to their local museum because not every city has a museum of its own. And so I’m encouraging institutions, paleontologists, amateur fossil hunters and enthusiasts, volunteers, students, pretty much anyone who wants to share science with the next generation of budding scientists and paleontologists is to participate in this year’s National Fossil Day.

National Fossil Day is an organized event in the United States by the National Park Service to celebrate and bring awareness to our nation’s fossil heritage and resources. With recent cuts to Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument, it is more apparent than ever that we need to highlight the scientific and educational value of paleontology, and preserve fossils for future generations. It is celebrated by most institutions/organizations in the form of an event that allow scientists and volunteers to engage the public through guided tours, hands-on activities, lectures, or simply seeing some fossils up close.

National Fossil Day is months away (October 17, 2018), but now is the time to start thinking about how you and your institution/school/museum/library/organization can get involved. Now is a perfect time to begin recruiting vendors, volunteers, event planners, and anyone else you need so that, by the time October rolls around, you have already promoted your Fossil Day event, have people registered to attend, and have everything planned out for success. Thankfully, the NPS website has everything you need to get started! They also have a detailed list of what you need to do to host a Fossil Day event.

The logo for this year’s National Fossil Day has been revealed, and it highlights organisms from the Late Cretaceous Javelina Formation that were found and collected in Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas. In the foreground is the formidable Quetzalcoatlus northropi, one of the last and largest pterosaurs ever, with a wingspan of roughly 33–36 feet. The logo also features the “poster child” of vertebrate paleontology, Tyrannosaurus. Fossils of tyrannosaurs were first discovered in Big Bend National Park in 1976.

Plant fossils from the Javelina Formation are also highlighted in this year’s NFD logo. The early broadleaf tree Javelinoxylon is visible in the background, and are known from the Javelina Formation in the form of petrified wood. More than 300 types of fossil plants are found in the Javelina Formation.

For more information on the National Fossil Day logo and the fossils of the Javelina Formation and Big Bend National Park, visit the National Fossil Day website here.

So, get out there to your local museum, national park, library, wherever it is you can go to learn and be inspired, take a selfie, and share it with others. Let’s celebrate and share science, especially at a time when we need it more than anything else. And consider ways that you can get involved with this year’s National Fossil Day. Please visit their website below for more information.

National Fossil Day Website

Happy Museum Selfie Day! I look forward to all of your museumtastic pictures out there today!

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