The Mace Brown Natural History Museum on the second floor of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building should be on every CofC student’s college bucket list. Mace Brown, who collected all of the fossils on display, officially donated the $1.6 million collection to the College last month.
“It’s a great exhibit,” Will Dennis-King, a geology major and docent at the museum, said. Among the 3,000 to 5,000 specimens, visitors can see a beautiful opalized ammonite, frightening but fascinating mososaurs, rare fossils such as the complete skeleton of an early dog, and an entire wall of shark teeth, which is Dennis-King’s favorite.
The vast majority of the fossils were collected locally, or at least lived in South Carolina during their time. “That was the focus of Mr. Brown’s collecting mostly vertebrate material,” geology professor James Carew said. Carew became aware of the collection ten years ago, and he worked with Brown to create the museum.
The collection’s presence at the College has benefited researchers, college students, local school groups and the public alike. “We use it in introductory labs, biology labs use it, art students come and draw there, communications students come and do video projects there,” Carew said. More than 100 student groups visit every year.
“It’s aesthetic, but it’s also educational,” museum docent and geology major Savannah Cobb said. She is enrolled in Museum Fossil Preparation II, which allows undergraduate students to learn about the fossils hands-on. Brown himself teaches the class, and he plans to retire soon from his financial planning company, Principal Financial Group, to devote more time to the museum.
“This is a pretty spectacular exhibit considering that it’s free to the public, and there’s nothing like it in South Carolina,” Dennis-King said. The collection grows thanks to students’ work preparing fossils and Brown’s continued interest in collecting fossils. A second room is scheduled to open in May, which will house aquatic specimens, while the current room will see new elephant and plant specimens.
According to Carew, Dennis-King and Cobb, the most important thing to know about the museum is that it is there. Admission is completely free, although they do accept donations. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the week except Wednesday.