The NSU Scientific-Educational Center “Evolution of the Earth” is the only modern complex of exhibition halls, exhibits and interactive systems beyond the Urals in Siberia. It was created to present scientific, educational, and promotional activities in the field of earth sciences to a wide audience of visitors, including schoolchildren of all ages. In popular science style, the Center provides information about the structure of the Earth and its place in outer space, the composition of geospheres and the movement of lithospheric plates, the diversity of geological processes in the bowels of the Earth, minerals and rocks, methods of mineral exploration and mining, evolution of the biosphere, and much more. Since the end of 2014, more than 40 people have worked to create this unique center with the support of the 5-100 Program.
Valery Vernikovsky, Project Manager and Dean of the NSU Geology and Geophysics Department, talked about the Center,
The idea of creating the “Evolution of the Earth” Center is explained by the title. We want to show the evolution of the Earth from the formation of the Solar System and the place of our planet in it. We also want people to explore various geological processes that contributed to these developments such as igneous, metamorphic, sedimentation, and lithospheric plate movement from antiquity to today. Our objective in creating this Center was to combine science and education so that the expositions are interesting to non-professionals. We really want people to come here who are not experts in geology but who want to learn more about it and experience it through the eyes of a geologist. Of course, we very much expect schoolchildren from different grades to come visit us. We think that our Center will be of interest even to the youngest children.
More 1,100 exhibits, 18 models and 13 information tablets are on display in the Center’s four exhibition halls and corridors. Among the unique exhibits are samples of rocks and minerals from the great depths of the Earth, meteorites, ancient petrified remains of animals and plants, samples of Siberian oil and coal, etc. A unique hardware-software demonstration consists of a spherical screen and an LED panel that is controlled by an interactive touch screen. The interactive globe and software allow you to visualize any geological and geophysical data and images on the globe and online. The Center halls are equipped with interactive touch kiosks, tablets, and monitors. All expositions have explanatory texts in Russian and English. Between the halls, there is a 20 seat movie theatre to show popular science films and video materials about the earth sciences.
Talking about the concept, there are many geological museums in Russia with a large number of exhibits, rocks, and minerals. The exhibits in these museums are focused on classification, that is, they are mainly aimed at people who can navigate through a large variety of samples and distinguish between classification nuances. We wanted to present a complete picture of the origin of the Earth, its general structure, processes that took place before the birth of life, over the past 500 million years and are relevant today. These kinds of museums, maybe on a larger scale, can be seen in London, Paris, New York, and Stockholm. We wanted to create something similar in Siberia.
The Center's exhibits, new samples, and models were purchased during the project’s implementation, mined during internship and scientific field expeditions, or given as gifts since 2014. The geography of stone samples at the Center is striking in the breadth of their origin from the Arctic archipelago of Russia to South Africa and from Kamchatka and Japan to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, samples displayed in the Center are from both the depths of space and the depths of our planet. There are several samples of meteorites, most likely from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. In addition, there is an extensive collection of samples from the Earth's mantle, mantle xenoliths that were made by particularly strong volcanic eruptions from depths of more than 70 km. Of particular interest is the collection of crystals grown artificially in a laboratory.
NSU Geology and Geophysics Department staff members created unique exhibits on the Pleistocene megafauna. Since 2015, they have been conducting expeditionary work on the rivers of Western Siberia to find as many bones and skulls of the “mammoth fauna” as possible. During these expeditions, more than 5,000 bones of individual animals, both herbivores and predators, were collected, classified, and restored. To date, these specimens include skeletons of bison and woolly rhinoceros. A mammoth skeleton is being assembled and material is being collected for the assembly of predator skeletons. Models for demonstrations of volcanism, ancient geographical conditions, Earth’s structure, seismic methods for exploration, prospecting and mining of mineral resources were ordered from workshops in different Russian cities.
One of the unique exhibits at the newly opened Center is the interactive globe mentioned above that allows you to visualize any geological and geophysical data and images on the globe and online. The globe and its software (OrbusTouch) were developed at the Russian Academy of Sciences Geophysics Center and has no analogue in Russia.
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