About the Museum Exhibit


In October of 2010 we opened a long-term Big History exhibit at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington entitled “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything.” This exhibit, which was jointly sponsored by the Stone Age Institute, Indiana University, and the federal government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services, focuses on our 100 top evolutionary events in the ten nested time scales.

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Among the several hundred objects on exhibit are:

1) The oldest known matter in the solar system: a 4.6 billion-year-old carbonaceous chondrite meteorite that fell in 1969 in Murchison, Australia;

2) A piece of the lunar highland of the moon (meteorite);

3) A piece of the planet Mars (meteorite);

4) The oldest known Earth rock, 4.3 billion years old from the Canadian Shield (donated by the principal researchers from McGill University & the Carnegie Institute);

5) A rock containing early bacterial life, 3.5 billion years old, from Australia;

6) Early stromatolites (3 to 2 billion years) to show the rise of cyanobacteria;

7) A banded iron formation to show the rise in oxygen levels from cyanobacterial photosynthesis and the “Great Rust”;

8) A granite-rich tillite conglomerate that formed at the end of the first “Snowball Earth” ca. 2 billion years ago

9) Examples of the early Precambrian (Vendian) multicellular life, ca. 560 million years old (Nemiana from the Ukraine);

10) Original fossils and casts of animals from the Cambrian explosion, ca. 540 million;

11) Casts of early chordates (Pikaia), vertebrate fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals (Eomaia), birds, flowering plants, prosimians (Darwinius), monkeys (Aegyptopithecus), and apes (Proconsul);

12) A full-sized cast of the best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skull (mounted so that children can touch it), T.rex footprint, T. rex hand, and T. rex brain endocast;

13) Casts of early grazing animals (ca. 15 million years ago) showing the origin and spread of grasslands);

14) Casts of key hominin fossils (including Sahelanthropus, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus africanus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neandertalensis, Homo sapiens);


“Time Capsule” mural on display at the “From the Big Bang …” exhibit at the Mathers Museum, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

Credit: Mural by Kelly Franke, courtesy of The Mathers Museum/The Stone Age Institute. All rights reserved.

15) Casts of the Laetoli hominin footprints from 3.5 million years ago;

16) Examples of Oldowan, Acheulean, Middle Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic, and Paleoindian tools;

17) A full-sized replica of a Neandertal skeleton next to an anatomically modern human;

18) A cast of the Neandertal burial from Kebara Cave, Israel;

19) A full-sized replica of an Upper Palaeolithic painted cave;

20) Replicas of early ceramics (Jomon, Japan) and metallurgy (early copper and bronze technology, iron technology), including the raw materials of those technologies (e.g. clay, copper ores, tin ores, and iron ores);

21) Artifacts from an early agricultural (Neolithic) culture (from the Sahara of Northwest Africa);

22) Artifacts from an early civilization (we intentionally chose a non-Western complex society, the Shang Dynasty of China), and of early writing (Sumerian cuneiform clay tablet, Shang oracle bone);

23) Replicas of early armillary sphere, astrolabe, printing (first page of Genesis of a Gutenberg Bible), firearms (matchlock rifle) and microscope (17th century Dutch van Leeuwenhoek model);

24) Artifacts from the Age of Exploration;

25) Artifacts from the Industrial Revolution;

26) The oldest automobile in Bloomington, from the 1880’s, made from a horse carriage;

27) Early examples of a daguerreotype, box camera (Rochester, 1880’s), Edison light bulb, telegraph, telephones, silent movie camera, Edison wax cylinder horn phonograph, microphones (4 different decades, starting in the 1920’s), an early GE electric fan;

28) The earliest commercial electric guitar (1932 cast-aluminum Rickenbacker A-25 lap steel “Frying Pan”) and matching amplifier (early 1930’s Rickenbacker M-10 amp);

29) A full-sized replica of Robert Goddard’s first liquid-fueled rocket from 1926 (made for us by a local sheet metal company);

30) Examples of an early radio (1922 RCA), television (1948 Admiral), personal computer (first-generation Apple Macintosh), portable cell phone (1986 Motorola), GPS (1980’s military version of the Magellan), and first-generation iPhone;

31) An artificial heart (Syncardia), an artificial knee (Mayo Clinic) and an aortal stent (Cook Medical).

In the future we hope to arrange production of a traveling exhibit to tour major museums and science centers around the country, pending funding. We have met with key staff at the Science Museum of Minnesota, one of the premier institutions that builds traveling exhibits to discuss and develop this idea.

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