When San Bernardino County’s former Museum Director, Robert McKernan walked through the Hall of Geological Wonders, he enthusiastically described what he imagined visitors would see. “At the entrance will be two huge mastodons. Hanging from the ceiling will be a teratorn, a giant prehistoric bird. Venturing further inside, visitors will find dinosaur prints, an Ice Age cave and an earthquake simulation in a replica of a mountain dwelling. This venue will be like no other venue in North America,” he said. For the first time ever, visitors to the new Hall of Wonders will get the opportunity to begin that experience.
The San Bernardino County Museum is located in Redlands, California. Since the recent completion of the new $6.9 million wing, curators have been eagerly waiting for the necessary funding assistance to help pay for the planned exhibits. The day finally arrived in the summer of 2015 when the County was able to fund the permanent displays and exhibits. The Hall’s christening premier exhibit, aptly named Fossils Underfoot, was the first phase of a three-part plan for exhibit installations. When complete, the Hall of Geological Wonders is certain to become an event destination. First-time visitors to the Hall learn that the immediate region was once previously home to mastodons, saber-tooth tigers, wild tapirs, pre-historic horses, and yes, even the diva Tyrannosaurus Rex. Interactive displays teach visitors about geology, paleontology, and the methods of restoring artifacts and fossils from prehistoric environments.
Designed as the evolutionary extrusion of the existing museum form, the new Hall is certain to offer thrilling geology and paleontology displays. The Hall has already been featured in the journals of Museum Management, California Academy of Sciences, and The Paleontologist. The innovative three-story design provides a variety of unexpected viewing perspectives which capture the imagination of every visitor and invite discovery. Museum exhibits are presented like geological strata which provide distinct relationships to time and paleontological history. Part of the building features an observation tower, which vertically punctuates the layered building form as it offers a living, panoramic view of the land forms which define California’s infamous San Andreas fault—only several miles away. By providing a significant amount of diffused natural daylighting, the exhibits literally appear to change in time as the sun moves through the day. Outside the Hall, a series of interactive exhibits further fascinate museum visitors and guests as they encounter a simulated archaeological dig, make plaster fossil molds from a casting pit, and experience the “Stonehenge Amphitheater”—designed for daytime learning events and evening dramatizations.