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Fossil exhibition to tour New Zealand museums - 09/10/2007

A major exhibition on New Zealand fossils – some dating back 500 million years – starts a three-year tour of New Zealand museums this week. Called NZ Fossils: Dead Precious! it showcases New Zealand fossils as indicators and predictors of climate change, evolution, natural disasters, and resources such as mineral deposits and oil and gas.

Dead precious exhibition

The exhibition has been developed by GNS Science with principal partner Shell New Zealand.

GNS Science chief executive Alex Malahoff said of the many thousands of specimens available, GNS Science had chosen 50 fossils that tell important stories about who we are and the planet we live on.

“It’s not just about showing beautiful objects that are extraordinarily old. It underlines the significance of fossils to our daily lives and to our economy,” Dr Malahoff said.

“Fossils record the quality and quantity of life, the big environmental events that have changed the world, and the continued evolution of plants and animals. The exhibition is also about making science accessible and transparent and showing the contribution that science makes to New Zealand.”

Many of the fossils are marine in origin, reflecting New Zealand’s watery history. This includes the remains of marine reptiles, whales, and sharks. All the main periods of New Zealand’s geological time are represented in the exhibition.

The oldest fossils on show are 500 million-year-old trilobites that were found in northwest Nelson. These were small crustaceans related to modern-day crabs and shrimps. They tell a story of what New Zealand was like half a billion years ago.

The youngest fossil is a moa bone less than one million years old. Many of the fossils will be seen in public for the first time. Although fossils are central to the exhibition, it is really about how people make use of fossils to solve problems and advance our knowledge of the Earth.

Shell New Zealand Country Chair Rob Jager said fossils were extremely precious and played an important role in decision-making in the oil and gas exploration business.

“This exhibition brings to life an archive of New Zealand’s ancient biodiversity, and truly celebrates the influence that fossils have in our business – past, present, and future.

“Shell is delighted to partner with GNS Science, and to embark on sharing the New Zealand fossil story over the next few years.”

The exhibition is expected to be seen by about 150,000 people during its three-year tour of New Zealand. It will be on show in museums at New Plymouth, Rotorua, Napier, Invercargill, Otago, Christchurch, and Nelson. The exhibition is supported by Joule, the University of Otago, and International Year of Planet Earth.

NZ Fossils : Dead Precious!

National Touring Exhibition Itinerary - 2007-2010

  • Puke Ariki, New Plymouth: October 26 2007 – 10 February 2008
  • Rotorua Museum of Art & History: 14 March – 11 May 2008
  • National Aquarium of NZ, Napier: 19 May – 29 June 2008
  • Southland Museum & Art Gallery, Invercargill: 11 July – 24 August 2008
  • Otago Museum, Dunedin: 20 September – 7 December 2008
  • Canterbury Museum, Christchurch: 15 December 2008 – 26 April 2009
  • The Nelson Provincial Museum: 9 May – 18 September 2009
  • Te Manawa, Palmerston North from late 2009 (dates to be confirmed)
  • Te Papa, Wellington from early 2010 (dates to be confirmed)