SEYMOUR, Texas (KFDX/KJTL) — There was a land before time — and a north Texas museum is allowing visitors to explore it.
Fin-backed Dimetrodons roamed across the lands of Texas, and Seymour is the perfect spot to get a paleontology fix to study its fossils and those of the Permian Era, which was some 287 million years ago, according to Whiteside Museum of Natural History Museum Director Christopher Flis. Flis added, “such an important scientific museum is really special for a small community.”
“Historically, this county has been dug since about 1878,” Flis said. “Not many folks in the area realize these fossils are here and that’s one of the problems with a large museum taking the fossils and going to different parts of the world. At least with Seymour now, all these incredible natural history treasures are going to stay in this community forever.”
“One of the things we love about our museum is we provide a metropolis-style museum to a small community,” Flis said.
Building the future
Seymore native McKinzi Donnell recalls when the museum opened its doors.
“It was just another opportunity for kids and the youth to use for their futures. So it was just another opportunity for science,” Donnell said.
She took that opportunity and ran with it. She started in the museum’s gift shop but quickly grew an interest in paleontology. From digs all the way to the research lab, she’s made the most of the museum and is now a curatorial assistant.
“We’re discovering new things every single day, even here we’re discovering new things. So the more we get into it — the more we learn — the more we can change past ideas,” Donnell said.
Whiteside is one of the few small museums to offer an inside look at its lab. People can watch as researchers work to break off the caliche surrounding fossils and piece together history. Flis said some of the most important ones they’ve found are the Dimetrodons, noting they’ve already worked on a number of complete skeletons.
“Biggest thing to remember is about, especially small museums, is that they’re an incredible source of extracurricular education,” Flis said. “To have a small museum like this in your community is a very special thing, the kids, the families have access to, incredible science and education they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.”
The museum also has other exhibits like the African Hall, Hall of Texas Wildlife and more.
What’s next for the museum?
This is just a glimpse of what Whiteside Museum has to offer, with a groundbreaking for expansion coming soon, and completion expected by the museum’s 10th anniversary.
The expansion will add more exhibit space, classrooms and much more in 2024.
“We bring big-time museums to small-town Seymour and it is something these small communities have that bigger cities can do,” Donnell said. “We have people come here from all over the world. Not just all over the country but all over the world. The stuff that we study here, we’re the best place in the world to study it,”