Experience Ancient Bison Fossils

Transcript PDF 23 kb

What is the Museum Property Program?

The Museum Property Program of the Bureau of Reclamation was established to identify, preserve, and interpret museum objects collected from Reclamation lands and facilities. Museum property can be any of a wide variety of things, including archaeological artifacts, history objects, natural history specimens, art, geological samples and ethnographic items.

One of the most important aspects of Reclamation’s Museum Property Program is that Reclamation is to manage its museum property for the public's use and benefit. How is this possible? Recently, the DOI Cultural and Scientific Collections Program provided grant funding through the the Interior Museum Program, (which provides oversight and assistance to the agencies within the Department of Interior) offered a grant opportunity in which DOI funding provided could be used to improve current management of museum collections and Reclamation’s program was selected. With this funding, the developing technology of three-dimensional scanning, archiving, and display will soon be a reality.

What We Found: Bison Latifons

The Snake River Area Office in the Pacific Northwest Region of Reclamation discovered ancient Bison latifrons specimens from southeastern Idaho. Bison latifrons was an ancient species of long-horned bison that roamed throughout North America for more than 200,000 years during the last Ice Age. Adult male animals grew larger than today’s bison by almost 50%, and the spread of the horns averaged greater than 7 feet from tip to tip. One specimen in Reclamation’s collection has horn cores that spread almost eight feet wide!

The Bison latifrons specimens in the Snake River Area Office collection are all housed at the Idaho Museum of Natural History (IMNH) on the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. Two distinct geological layers in that area consistently reveal ice age fossils, and Bison latifrons specimens are exposed in large numbers. Reclamation’s collection of Bison latifrons specimens is considered world-class in quality and has been used for research by scholars throughout the world for specific studies. However, so much more can be learned from these fossils that it made sense to find a better way to make them more broadly available.

How Can You Use it ?

With the Interior Museum Program funding, Reclamation was able to contract with the Idaho Virtualization Lab (IVL), a research unit of the IMNH, specializing in digital archiving of valuable museum collections, including materials from archaeological and paleontological excavations, faunal remains, and all other aspects of cultural and natural history. Experts at the IVL performed 3D scanning and modeling of 249 Bison latifrons specimens, which are now made available as downloadable scan files. These files are intended for use by educators, researchers, and the general public for non-commercial purposes. The 3D printing of these virtual specimens is allowed for use in educational and research situations and for private use, but should not be provided for sale without the express written consent of the Bureau of Reclamation. Access the 3D scans at IVL >>

03/2018 Bison in the Basement (Idaho Magazine) HTML
10/2017 2D Representations of the 3D Scan Models PDF 9.73 mb

Related Links
Idaho Museum of Natural History
Interior Museum Program

Jenny Huang
Middle Snake Field Office
(208) 383-2257

Last Updated: 5/24/21