Notes From La Brea: Collections

In La Brea land, the work involves the past, mostly the past before human contact. It takes time to process the data and collections. There is a backlog of material waiting to be cataloged. Researchers have particular interests. The public knocks on the glass wanting to know more, now. Natural history museums, cautious curators caring for the distant past, are finding their way to preserve slow time in the frenetic, space and speed of the contemporary world.

“We’re not Wall Street. What we do takes time. This is about serious investigation not whimsy.”

Data to be identified. La Brea Museum storage.

“Natural History helps us to understand deep time Los Angeles. Without the meta data these are just ‘things’.”

Tray of fossils. La Brea Museum Collections.

“Currently, the museum is a static experience. We want to show how it is living. We deal with researchers, staff and the public. We are Fossil Librarians doing triage, acting as gatekeepers, deciding what is significant. As the rarefaction curve nears 95%, there are diminishing returns.”

Racks of data in storage. La Brea Museum.

Collections Manager, “This is the longest running urban site for paleontology. The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPINACH) hopes to make museums like this places with a purpose other than pure curiosity”.

Professor, “What about the plants?”

Taxa of Rancho La Brea, Los Angeles County, Grey Stripes, La Brea Museum.

Taxa of Kurten and Anderson, Orange County, Partial Flag, La Brea Museum.

Taxa of Riverside County, Flags and Museum La Brea Park.

Taxa of San Bernadino County, Flags and Museum, La Brea Park.

Notes from La Brea: Fossil Lab

This week is about cleaning and sorting: matrix from fossils, guesses from identifiers, non-microfossils from microfossils, bio-fuel from sediment, unexpected finds into new experiments, contaminants from useful data.

“The biggest picture we are trying to paint is of climate change over time – to see what happened in the past in order to help us to understand what is happening now.”

Photo of Hollywood sign taken at the intersection of Cochran and 8th while cycling to La Brea.

“At a time when libraries around the western world are in decline we are building a fossil library that will be here for generations to study.” Continue reading

Notes from La Brea: Excavations

The Dark Matter: Anthropocene special project at La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Los Angeles uses the lens of art to investigate the work of paleo-scientists researching the preservative properties of bitumen and the prehistoric stories revealed within.

Each discipline has it’s own language with which to communicate. The paleo-scientific world of La Brea is no exception.

    “This site is a living organism…

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Dark Matter: Anthropocene – We Were Here

In 2016 the Working Group on the Anthropocene proposed the declaration to the International Geological Congress of a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. This proposed geological period displays evidence of profound human impact on the earth: unprecedented extinction rates of plants and animals, increased levels of CO2 from burning fossil fuels, fossil records of microplastics in waterways, fertilizer affecting the nitrogen cycle and permanent records of black carbon in sediment and glacial ice.

Dark Matter: Anthropocene – We Were Here

Bitumen* is a petroleum based product that feels solid at room temperature yet moves over time. Dark Matter: Anthropocene – We Were Here provides a glimpse of human impact on the earth.

The piece moves from form to formlessness over time.