The Peter Redpath Museum of Natural History is one of the most prominent buildings of McGill University, looking out over the campus from the north-west corner. Not only is the museum prominent in its exterior looks, but also has the distinction of having been the first building to be specifically singled out for a museum in Canada. The museum building was commissioned in 1880 by McGill University benefactor, Peter Redpath, a sugar company owner, in order to mark the 25th anniversary of Sir William Dawson's appointment as Principal of the University. The beautiful columned building was designed by A.C. Hutchinson and A.D. Steele, who decided to create a Victorian design to symbolize Dawson and Canadian science.

The museum itself was opened in 1882, two years after Redpath commissioned the project, and was immediately housed with the impressive collections of Sir William Dawson, a noted Canadian natural scientist. Until 1952 the museum was used almost strictly as a McGill University research facility, meaning that it was difficult for the public to view the collections. But, after World War II this concept changed, and the museum gradually began to market itself to the public. But, this period was short lived, as in 1971 McGill University, under extreme financial pressure, dramatically reduced public access to the Redpath Museum. But, the tides turned once again, as in 1985 the museum doors were open once again to the public. Today, in the year 2000, marketing of the museum is expanding in the Montreal area, and several new temporary exhibits have filled the Redpath's halls. The combination of this savvy marketing and impressive exhibits have made the late 1990's some of the most successful years for this old institution.

During August of 2000 I was able to visit Montreal for one evening. Jason Anderson, a graduate student from McGill, graciously offered to show my family and I around the museum's collections and exhibit halls. To but it shortly, I was very impressed. The Redpath contains one of the world's most impressive gastropod collection, and also is famous for its Burgess Shale fossils. But, perhaps most people know the Redpath for its impressive collection of early vertebrates, including the earliest known land vertebrates from North America, collected at Horton's Bluff, Nova Scotia by McGill professor Dr. Robert Carroll. These fossils are not on display, but a large Albertosaurus and Dromaeosaurus do fill the exhibit halls. Also included in these halls are fossils discovered in the Montreal area, including Ordovician and Tertiary specimens.

Flash photography was not permitted in the exhibit halls, and the lighting was poor. Therefore, my picture taking was limited. Only two of the photos listed below are actually on exhibit (the Albertosaurus and the whale). The remainder of the photos are stored in the museum's private collections.



Delphinapterus leucas (Tertiary Beluga Whale)


Early Fish (Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia)

Early Tetrapod Jawbone (Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia)

Early Tetrapod Vertebrae (Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia)

A´stopods (Mazon Creek, Illinois)


Museum Exterior


© 1997 brusatte@theramp.net

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