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September 14, 2018

The Virginia Museum of Natural History has received a grant of $97,637 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to improve the care and accessibility of approximately 200 to 540 million-year-old geologic rock core that documents the extent and characteristics of the largest uranium deposit in the United States.  Recent considerations of mining the uranium deposit have resulted in increased requests for access to the rock core collection, requiring additional measures to ensure its future health and accessibility.
"We are pleased to be awarded this grant from IMLS, which will allow us to properly care for the rock core and make it accessible for future research," said Dr. Elizabeth Moore, curator of archaeology at the museum and project director.  "The collection, which currently resides in a remote storage facility in southern Virginia, will be transported to a climate-controlled building near the Virginia Museum of Natural History's main facility that is secure, has controlled access, and is monitored under our Integrated Pest Management system.  Such measures will play a major role in maintaining the health of the collection."

The collection consists of 75,000 linear feet of 2-inch rock core drilled from Triassic (approximately 252 - 201 million years ago) and Paleozoic (approximately 541 - 252 million years ago) rocks in the Virginia Piedmont. 
"There are several unique aspects of this core," said Dr. Jim Beard, curator of earth sciences at the museum.  "First, it documents the extent and characteristics of the largest uranium deposit in the United States (Coles Hill deposit). Second, the core penetrates and preserves the border fault of a Newark Supergroup Triassic basin. To our knowledge, this is the only preserved record of an actual fault plane related to the breakup of Pangaea, a geological event of singular importance. Third, the Coles Hill deposit itself is unique in and of itself in that it is the only major ore deposit of any type associated with Pangaea breakup in eastern North America. Fourth, the core provides one of the very few complete tectono-stratigraphic records of sedimentation along a Newark Supergroup basin-bounding fault."
More than just a science-based need, the overall project will have a positive economic impact for the region.
“Most of the money provided with this grant will be awarded to Virginia-based contractors and suppliers,” said Moore.  “The moving company assisting with the project is based in Staunton and their employees will be staying in the area while working on the project, generating revenue for local hotels and restaurants. We will also be hiring two collections technicians to assist with processing the collection once it is relocated to the museum. Grants such as this one not only provide valuable assistance to the museum, they also provide jobs and revenue for the area.”
The grant was awarded to the museum through the IMLS "Museums for America" program, which supports projects that strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public. The "Museums for America" program has three project categories:  Lifelong Learning, Community Anchors and Catalysts, and Collections Stewardship and Public Access.
“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “IMLS is proud to support their work through our grant making as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”
About IMLS
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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