Date: May 3, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jeanette Smith, NMSU Library, (575) 646-7492, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Zuhl Collection of geological specimens works perfectly in the building that was named for Joan and Herbert Zuhl, and it makes New Mexico State University’s Zuhl Library one of the great showcases of the Southwest.
For more than thirty years Joan and Herbert Zuhl, for whom Zuhl Library is named, collected fossils, minerals and rocks, both for a private collection and to be sold at their gallery in New York City. In April 2000, the Zuhls generously donated their personal collection to New Mexico State University.
Many of the larger floor-standing and wall-mounted specimens of petrified wood are on permanent display on the second and third floors of Zuhl Library. Other pieces are exhibited in the first floor lobby, where a cast of the skull of Tyrannosaurus Rex “Stan” stands watch over all library comings and goings.
The Zuhl Collection consists of three categories of geologic specimens: petrified wood, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils, and minerals and rocks:
The bulk of the Zuhl Collection is composed of petrified wood ranging in size from twigs and stems a few centimeters long to logs over a meter in diameter. Although there are specimens of wood from all over the world, most come from three regions in the United States. Perhaps the most famous is petrified wood from northern Arizona, extracted from the Chinle Formation of Late Triassic age (about 220 million years ago). Wood from the Chinle Formation represents conifer trees and is noted for vibrant red and yellow colors.
Equally impressive are geologically younger petrified logs of middle Tertiary age (about 20 million years ago) from eastern Oregon. These logs, which consist of both conifer and angiosperm wood, have beautifully preserved growth rings. Finally, there are also many petrified twigs and stems of early Tertiary age (about 40 million years ago) from Wyoming.
Invertebrate and Vertebrate Fossils
The Zuhl Collection also contains a large number of fossils of invertebrate and vertebrate animals from all over the world, including trilobites, corals, ammonites, insects, and fishes. Included in the collection are fossils from three famous sites: the Solenhofn Limestone of Germany, the Green River Formation of western Wyoming, and the White River Badlands of South Dakota. The Solenhofn Limestone is Late Jurassic in age (about 150 million years ago) and was deposited in a shallow lagoon. Because of the stagnant nature of the lagoon, organisms that fell or were washed into it decayed slowly, resulting in exquisite preservation of vertebrate bones and impressions of soft tissue of invertebrates. Included among the Solenhofn fossils are fish, insects, crustaceans, and flying reptiles (pterosaurs).
The younger Green River Shale of western Wyoming consists of thousands of meters of sandstone, shale, and limestone deposited in a middle Eocene (about 50 million years ago) lake. Noted for a great variety of perfectly preserved fish skeletons, the Green River Formation also contains well preserved fossil leaves. Finally, river sediment and volcanic ash of Oligocene age (about 30 million years ago), exposed in the Badlands of South Dakota, contain a tremendous quantity of vertebrate fossils, including early grazers, predators and numerous tortoises.
Minerals and Rocks
The smallest part of the Zuhl Collection, but nonetheless of great quality, are minerals and rocks from throughout the world. Particularly impressive are specimens of rhodochrosite, malachite, and rutilized quartz. Many of the rocks were ground and polished into spheres ranging in size from a few centimeters to a meter in diameter.
Images of approximately 2,000 cataloged specimens in the Zuhl Collection can be viewed online at http://zuhlcollection.nmsu.edu/. More than 1,000 of the specimens are displayed on the New Mexico State University’s Las Cruces campus in either the Zuhl Museum or Zuhl Library, with the majority in the museum. Visit the Zuhl Museum at 775 College Drive (575-646-3616) and visit Zuhl Library at 2911 McFie Circle (575-646-5792).