New Exhibits Installed At Petrified Forest National Park's Rainbow Forest Museum

Stop by the Rainbow Forest Museum in Petrified Forest National Park this summer to see the new exhibits that have been installed. NPS photo.

Some new exhibits have been installed at the Rainbow Forest Museum in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The Blue Mesa ecology exhibit shows off the late Triassic Period with a highly detailed mural representing a day in the life of a Triassic river. The surrounding panels and displays appeal to all ages and levels of interest, from a discussion of Triassic climate and how it changed over time, to a simulated fossil excavation. Cold cast bronzes of significant fossils provide a real “feel” for the kinds of fossils that inform us about the events in the lives of extinct Triassic animals.

Exhibit designers chose to represent one slice of time within the 18 million years of geologic events found within the park. Previous murals and media showed animals and plants from the entire Triassic Period in an effort to simplify the story. But ecosystems and animals change over time. Putting everything into the same image is like presenting a picture of modern humans living with creatures like beardogs, chalicotheres, and two-foot tall horses that browse on bushes.

In the last 10 years the park's understanding of the Triassic has grown tremendously. The Blue Mesa Room offers the opportunity to interpret “deep time,” helping answer such questions as, “How was this landscape different 223 million years ago?”, “When did dinosaurs and pterosaurs first evolve?”, “How old are rocks in the park compared to places like Grand Canyon and Zion National Park?”

Exhibits are never really finished. As scientific study continues, new fossils are found and the story evolves. But the doors to the most current picture of the Triassic are now open for the public to enjoy.