In the 1940s, museum director and paleontologist J. Willis Stovall collected dozens of specimens of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals from across the state of Oklahoma. Fossils typically are brought in from the field inside a large chunk of rock wrapped in a protective plaster and burlap field jacket. Fossil preparators later open the plaster covering in the lab and begin the long, slow process of carefully removing the fossils from the rocky matrix.
Stovall and his teams of WPA workers collected so many fossils that, more than 50 years later, museum staff and volunteers are still working to open and prepare out all the field jackets stored in museum collections. In Collecting Oklahoma, visitors can see and touch one of Stovallís original jackets, collected near Alex, Oklahoma, in 1947. Besides the date and location, no clues as to the contents of this field jacket are written on the plaster covering. Stovallís notes on this specimen are lost, and museum paleontologists have no idea what is inside the Alex jacket.
Can you guess? Visitors are encouraged to write down their best guess and submit it for a chance to win a prize. In February, fossil preparators will open the 1947 jacket and extract and identify the fossils. Those who guessed correctly will be entered to win the grand prize.