After two years of preparation, the South Australian Museum will be ready to offer a new, digital, hands-on experience in its renovated First Life Ediacara Fossils Gallery: a window into the oldest complex life known on the planet.
Most of the new gallery is comprised of specimens that have only ever been seen by a handful of scientists, worldwide.
The South Australian Museum’s talented team of scientists, designers and curators has prepared a unique space that not only allows physical access to these globally significant fossils, but captures the visitors’ imagination with iPad programs, animations and artwork on the walls and floor, which will allow children to familiarise themselves very closely with the names and shapes of these significant animals that called Australia home millions of years ago.
The gallery features a wealth of specimens that have only ever been seen by a handful of scientists, worldwide, and footage from British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough’s Emmy Award-winning series First Life, which was filmed on location in the Flinders Ranges with the Museum’s leading Palaeontologist, Professor Jim Gehling.
South Australia can be proud to house such an important gallery. The gallery spans the entire history of the “first life” on Earth, from 3.5 billon year old rocks bearing the first microbes to fossils of the first large and complex animals on Earth — the Ediacara biota.
Professor Jim Gehling says, “Every year we get a series of both students and paleontological experts making a special trip to South Australia in hope of seeing real Ediacaran fossils. They want to come to the place where these things were first discovered and if they can, they want to go to the Flinders Ranges. But this is the window to the Flinders for people who can’t get there. All animals, even those that eventually swam and chased each other and vertebrate animals like us had an origin. And that origin is somewhere in that Ediacaran gallery”.
“A major feature of this gallery is the key evidence that the marine animals of the Ediacara biota were no just immobile life-forms, but also included the first animals on Earth that grazed and moved cross these 550 million-year-old seafloors, leaving distinctive traces”.
The Museum team creating the new gallery, including 3D designer Jo Bain, preparator Greg Parnell and exhibition designer Brett Chandler, have worked tirelessly to create an environment that will be engaging, attractive and educational.
“School children will be able to use putty and make imprints of the fossils. You can’t do that in any other museum. If we put glass in front of it, as other museums do, it would make it that much harder to see.
“The new gallery is pitched at people of all ages – even children whose heads don’t even go over the benches, who can look through windows at the reconstructions of the sea floor. They may not be so interested in tiny little impressions on sandstones but they will be interested in a reconstructed aquarium of what first life looked like.
Young adults can go into the iPads and explore the stories further – and perhaps become keen young scientists who want to work on problems like this in the future.”
Funded by the generosity of private donors, the refurbished First Life Ediacara Fossil Gallery opens to the donors in a special event tonight, and to the general public on Tuesday, 17 December 2013.