The Manitoba Museum once again took home a Canadian Museums Association (CMA) Award of Outstanding Achievement, this time in the Exhibitions, Science and Technology category (for Museums with annual operating budgets over $1M). On Friday, April 7, at the 2017 CMA National Conference in Ottawa, this excellence was recognized during an awards gala.
The winning Pliosaur Exhibit features a 90-million-year-old fossil and a full-scale reconstruction of the marine reptile, a type of plesiosaur – extinct reptiles that were at the top of the food chain in the Cretaceous seas. The jury was unanimous in its decision, noting that this project was nationally significant and exceeded the current standard of practice by going beyond the conventional approach.
This fossil is very important as it is the only relatively complete pliosaur ever collected in Canada, and one of the best in the world. It is scientifically significant because pliosaur skulls have rarely been found with the body fossils. As a result, there is great interest in the fossil and it is being actively studied by scientists from Tokyo’s Gakugei University and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
The exhibit is anything but conventional. The original fossil is dramatically panel-mounted in a glass-topped case, laid out in a recreation of bedrock. The support for the fossil used innovative methods, with each bone fitted into its own foam-lined cavity. The skull is on a separate sub-platform, which was lowered into place on small jacks. It is positioned as though it has just been discovered by Dr. Wayne Buckley, the enthusiastic amateur paleontologist who, in fact, found the fossil on a riverbank in western Manitoba. The skeletal reconstruction is life-sized and suspended from the ceiling, positioned as it would have been when swimming in the seas of old. Advanced lighting techniques were also used, including theatrical LED fixtures.
Dr. Graham Young, Curator of Geology and Paleontology at the Manitoba Museum, led the team that created the exhibit. About the process of putting this exhibit together he says, “This exhibit is a good example of how museums can collaborate with the amateur paleontology community, to share with the public important specimens that would otherwise not be available to us. This pliosaur is a remarkable and breathtaking fossil; we are delighted to have it on exhibit.”
In the past five years, the Manitoba Museum has received a CMA Award of Outstanding Achievement in every year it made a submission. In 2013, the Museum received an award for its Ancient Seas exhibit; no submission was made in 2014. The Lake Winnipeg Shared Solutions exhibit received the award in 2015 and the We Are All Treaty People/Berens Family Collection exhibits won in 2016.
The CMA Awards
Each year, the CMA has presented awards to celebrate and encourage excellence within the Canadian museum sector. A volunteer jury conducts a peer review of all submissions, and the successful recipients are honoured at the CMA’s annual conference. Nominations are open to all members of the Canadian museum community – including volunteers, board members, supporters, as well as employees – who have contributed long and distinguished service and have been dedicated to the advancement of museums in Canada.