Arts and Entertainment

Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway at MAC

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The Museum & Arts Center travels back in time by multiple millennia this fall with a new exhibit unearthing Washington’s prehistoric past.


“Cruisin’ the Washington Fossil Freeway,” a traveling exhibit from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, opens this week at the The Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Exhibit Center, 175 W. Cedar St. The exhibit highlights archaeological discoveries across the state, including Sequim’s history-making Manis mastodon.


The public is invited to a free reception to officially open the exhibit at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the MAC Exhibit Center. The reception, which coincides with National Earth Science Week, will include a guided exhibit tour developed by MAC volunteer docent Emily Nisbet that emphasizes its ties to local fossil discoveries.


“We tend to think of the Earth as immutable and unchanging, but in fact it is in a state of constant, if generally slow, flux. I think it would be fascinating for any visitor, adult or child, to see snapshots of how our world has changed and developed,” said Nisbet, a science illustrator with an archaeology background.


“Besides, no matter how old you are, what could be cooler than learning about mammoths and mastodons?”


The traveling exhibit, which features several real fossil specimens, combines a specially commissioned Washington fossil map and panels of whimsical, fossil-inspired artwork by Ray Troll with text from paleontologist Kirk Johnson to tell the tale of prehistoric life and death in Washington. Additionally, the exhibit will be augmented by a display of 15-20 fossils from the MAC Collection.


The arrival of the fossil freeway exhibit also coincides with the one-year anniversary of the publication by Science magazine of a study that verified the age of the skeletal remains of the Manis mastodon, which were uncovered by namesake discoverer Emanuel Manis on his Happy Valley property in 1977. The study, published in October 2011, revealed that a handmade projectile embedded in one of the mastodon bones dates back at least 13,800 years, thereby providing proof of the oldest human settlement found to date in the Americas.


The scientific revelation has literally rewritten history and attracted substantial interest from the scientific and museum communities as well as numerous other parties, said MAC Executive Director DJ Bassett.

Such renewed attention includes a recent visit to the MAC by representatives from the Archaeological Conservancy, which now owns the Manis mastodon dig site.


“The Manis mastodon is one of our hallmarks, both in terms of the Museum & Arts Center and of Sequim itself, and the stage is set to proceed with the design of a professional, exhibit-revitalizing project that properly preserves and highlights this essential link in our history,” Bassett said. “It also holds numerous opportunities for local and broad collaboration that assure long-lasting effects for our community as a cultural and historical destination.”


“Cruisin’ the Washington Fossil Freeway” was organized by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in collaboration with Troll and Johnson. The exhibit will remain on display through December at the MAC Exhibit Center.


For more information, contact the MAC at 683-8110 or visit its website at



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