The Fundy Geological Museum celebrates its 30th anniversary

The year is 1993. Intel introduces the Pentium processor, Prince Edward Island elects their first Premier who is a woman, Jurassic Park is the highest grossing film of the year, and the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series. In the coastal town of Parrsboro, a long-awaited and sought after institution is becoming a reality.

Nestled along the shores of the Upper Bay of Fundy is Parrsboro, world renowned for its geological riches and some of the world’s highest tides. In the mid 1980’s a discovery at Wasson Bluff of an early Jurassic crocodile, a mammal-like reptile, and some of Canada’s oldest dinosaur fossils, sparked a local interest in exploring the economic potential of these natural resources and attractions. In 1989, the Cumberland Geological Society was born. Its mission as a non-profit organization - to promote the development of a Museum of Geology and Palaeontology.  

Fast forward to December 1993 and the Fundy Geological Museum, a locally- managed site of the Nova Scotia Museum, opens its doors and welcomes visitors. In its 30 years of existence, the museum has been explored by over 300,000 visitors from local communities, across Canada, by our neighbours from the US, and beloved internationally. As a small but mighty geographic area, with ancient environments both well preserved and exposed for easy viewing, the mission of the Fundy Geological Museum is to be the world centre for experiencing geological history interpreted from the unique features of Nova Scotia’s Fundy Region.

Rocks, minerals, and fossils tell such a fascinating story of Nova Scotia from millions of years ago. For three decades the Fundy Geological Museum has set the stage to experience that ancient world. Danielle Serratos, Director/Curator of the Fundy Geological Museum joined the team in 2018 from the Museum of Geology in Rapid City, South Dakota. “I think that Fundy Geo has stayed relevant and continued to grow (even during the pandemic!) because number one, we focus on the excitement and wonder that is generated by dinosaurs and how the world existed millions of years before humans came along, and number two we know the value of our community and our role in supporting and staying a part of it. Dinosaurs have always been a source of curiosity for children and adults alike, we simply are continuing a long-held tradition of telling stories about ‘What might have been’ with scientific evidence to back up our hypotheses. And because we're situated along the famous and picturesque Bay of Fundy, in an area that has an unusually high number of craftspeople, artisans, and scientists, we work hard to maintain those relationships and provide as much community support as we possibly can. Fundy Geo is an integral part of the Parrsboro Shore and we're proud to collaborate with folks from all walks of life to showcase what our region has to offer to visitors and locals alike.”

In 2022 the International Council of Museums adopted a new definition of what a museum is. “A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets, and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible, and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally, and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection, and knowledge sharing.” As the Fundy Geological Museum celebrates the last 30 years, its already looking towards the future, streamlining programming and adapting how the museum engages locals and visitors alike. “We all know that the ongoing climate crisis is front and center for many institutions, especially those situated along the coast. We have plans to expand upon our paleoclimate exhibits and we've already begun that work through outreach efforts by revitalizing the Cobequid chapter of the Nova Scotia Young Naturalists Club. We also recognize that we have a long way to go when it comes to creating and sharing inclusive stories at Fundy Geo. For example, we hope to fundraise enough to revitalize gallery signage to be in Mi'kmaq and French as well as English and provide more learning opportunities for those who are visually impaired. Lastly, we know the value of getting outside and learning-by-doing but we also recognize that not everyone is able to easily traverse cobble beaches, so we hope to expand upon virtual field trips and bring the outdoors into people's homes.” says Serratos.

During the global pandemic in 2020 when the world was still, the Fundy Geological Museum was harnessing that time and developing new ways to engage their audience when it was safe to re-open operations. Working closely with various Nova Scotian experts, the Fundy Geo team transitioned much of their programming to a modern approach of connecting tourists to local attractions. Experiential tourism utilizes the natural resources of an area, such as beaches, while taking a sustainable approach to developing programming, partnering with local businesses, and incorporating reusable products when possible. The Fundy Geological Museum created several packages that launched in 2022 to bring guests outside of the museum doors to active, local geological sites in order to get hands-on experiences alongside an expert from the museum. This authentic type of programming gives visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in a place and time in geological history that leads to discovery, insight, and hopefully inspiration. Seasonally, the museum offers guided walking beach tours and year-round they offer scientific outreach opportunities geared towards encouraging the next generation of citizen scientists. The Fundy Geo team recognizes the strength of the small business and non-profit entities that exist and live along the Parrsboro Shore and strives to build long-standing relationships that ultimately support the growth of the community in the tourism sector. Two of the Fundy Geo experiences are supported by local partners such as Spirit Reins Ranch, The Sunshine Inn, and The Wild Caraway Restaurant.

The museum exhibit gallery features stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils found regionally as well as internationally. Is there a staff favourite exhibit? “Personally speaking, I’m very pleased with the full-body Coelophysis (see-lo-fy-sis) replica that we installed in March 2022. I love that Nova Scotia has numerous footprints of these early theropod dinosaurs (who were ancestors to Velociraptor and T. rex) but being able to put a full-size skeleton on display is what really helps folks visualize what these critters might have looked like and how they moved while roaming the planet millions of years ago” shares Serratos. “I also love that the Bay of Fundy’s Indigenous stories are woven throughout the exhibits and includes Mi’kmaq oral histories and artifacts that tell of the region’s geology. The tools made of agate and the traditional lore of how Kluskap created coastal landmarks throughout Mi’kma’ki that we see today are integral parts of the life and landscape that is in what we now call Nova Scotia.”

The Fundy Geological Museum is enthusiastically embarking on their 30th anniversary with commemorative all-ages events throughout the summer and a gala-style evening on November 25th. The Fundy Geological Museum site also houses a gift shop, multi-purpose community room, outdoor amphi-theatre, wheel-chair accessible picnic tables, accessible walking trail along the shore, and a community garden. You can visit the Fundy Geological Museum daily 10am – 5pm. For more information or to book an experience/tour phone 902 254 3814 or connect with @FundyGeoMuseum on Facebook/Instagram.