Paleo Prep Lab

BySternberg Museum

Paleo Prep Lab

IMG_1583The Sternberg Museum is undertaking a FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN to fund renovations and equipment for a new fossil prep lab. The fossil prep lab is the first stop for a fossil after it is excavated, and is where Museum staff, students, and volunteers clean, stabilize, and repair fossils for long-term preservation before incorporating them into exhibits or research.  Consequently, this space is an essential resource for education, research, exhibits, students at the Museum, and we are raising funds to expand the lab, update equipment, and ensure safe conditions for preparators.

We are fortunate enough to have received a matching grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation to help our campaign!  We are now working to raise the matching $81,000.

In 2016 we held our first ever fundraiser: the Inaugural Sternberg Museum Gala, with world famous paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner as a special guest. We are following up last year’s success with the 2017 Sternberg Spring Gala on April 1st. All proceeds from this year’s gala will contribute towards matching the Hansen grant. 

Please contact Dr. Laura Wilson, the Curator of Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum, or the Fort Hays State Foundation if you are interested in contributing to the Campaign.  This is a community resource, and we appreciate any contribution.

Contribute Today! (please select “Other” under Designation and specify the Sternberg Museum)

A rendering of what a new fossil prep lab could look like at the Sternberg Museum.

The Goal:

The fossil preparation lab at the Sternberg Museum is an intersection of collections, research, exhibits, and education. The current fossil prep facility is cramped, outdated, and lacks the proper ventilation needed for health and safety.  Renovation plans include more than tripling the size of the lab to accommodate more people and projects.  This will afford the opportunity to use the space as a hands-on classroom environment, to host workshops, and to train volunteers. K-12 students in museum education programs, college students, and members of the Hays community wishing to learn fossil preparation or seeking volunteer opportunities will also be able to utilize the lab.  Additionally, the prep lab will become even more integrated into exhibit space, so Museum visitors will be able to see how the scientific process works, as well as interact with students, volunteers, and scientists working in the lab.

Funds raised will be used to:

  • Build a larger prep lab into existing exhibit space.
  • Purchase state-of-the-art equipment and essential consumable supplies.
  • Fund students to set up the lab and train volunteers to prepare fossils.
  • Renovate the existing lab space into a “clean” lab for imaging and research.








The Vision:

While the current lab can only accommodate two or three people at a time, renovation plans include more than tripling the size of the lab to fit more people and projects.  This involves incorporating up to twelve work stations into the lab.  Upgrading equipment will ensure that fossil specimens will be cleaned and readied for long-term storage or display using the most up-to-date techniques, but will also guarantee healthy and safe working conditions.

A mock-up of a possible floor plan of the new prep lab. The “Histology Research Lab” is the location of the current lab. More recent plans include moving the “Reading Rocks Exhibit” and adding a bank of windows so the lab is more integrated into exhibit space.

There has been significant growth in K-12 programming at the Museum over recent years, including the establishment of summer camps; we are also working to incorporate more college students and adults into the Museum environment.  In the prep lab, students can get hands-on experience cleaning and studying fossils that can spark their interest in the sciences, and/or set them apart as they advance into college and careers. Working with fossils is also a big attraction to many museum volunteers and students, and it a great way to get the community involved in science. Additionally, because we are improving the integration of the lab into exhibit space, all Museum visitors will get an in-depth view of the scientific process not offered at other Museums in the state.

The Benefits:

Summer camp participants learning how to prep fossil. Currently, students must use other parts of the Museum because the lab is not big enough to accommodate many people or large fossils.

By renovating the fossil preparation lab at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, we will be able to increase and improve the resources available for science education. Improvements directly support the Museum’s mission to provide the highest quality scientific education to our community possible.

With a larger lab, we will be able to:

  • Prepare fossils of all sizes with top quality equipment for education, exhibit, and research use.
  • Increase the Museum’s capacity to involve summer camp and after-school program participants in hands-on educational experiences
  • More effectively train students and volunteers in fossil preparation and research.
  • Run workshops for community members.
  • Keep the prep lab in exhibit space to better engage visitors in the scientific process and add to the visitor experience.
  • Increase lab space to support the high quality research performed by Museum staff and students.
  • Provide students with skills to make them competitive for jobs in museum and natural science fields.
  • Ensure that Museum staff, students, and volunteers are able to work in a healthy environment with proper ventilation, safe chemical storage, and appropriately maintained equipment.

The Budget:

Funds raised during this campaign will be used to construct a larger prep lab, fill the lab with high quality  prep equipment, replenish consumable supplies, renovate the existing lab into an updated research lab, and fund Fort Hays State University students to assist with setting up the lab and training volunteers in fossil preparation methods.


The Sternberg Museum undertook initial fundraising efforts to support the fossil preparation lab renovation project in the spring of 2016. We hosted the Inaugural Sternberg Museum Gala last April to announce the fundraising goals; all proceeds from event ticket sales and silent auction sales contributed towards fundraising goals. Dr. Jack Horner, world famous paleontologist, visited Hays the day before the Gala and gave a public lecture. Proceeds from ticket sales for the lecture also went towards this project. Two National Science Foundation grants have been secured to support the paleontology collection at the Sternberg Museum, and are providing funding for two graduate and four undergraduate students for three years to work with the fossil collection. Another donation to the Museum is funding a paleontology collection manager who will oversee and manage the prep lab.

There are two naming opportunities available:

$40,000 contribution = Naming of Fossil Prep Lab

$20,000 contribution = Naming of Research & Imaging Lab