May 2022

Looking at photos of the first floor of the IGWS building from two years ago and now, you’d never know they were taken at the same place. Gone are the ’60s industrial green walls and fluorescent lighting over rows of dusty filing cabinets. In their place is a bright, airy, flexible classroom/museum space where curious students of all ages can discover geologic treasures that were, for so long, largely inaccessible to the public.

The room which now houses the Learning Lab used to house file cabinets.
The Learning Lab today.

On Friday, June 3, from 1 to 5 p.m., the IGWS will open five floors of its building to show off the $10 million renovation completed last summer. In addition to the Learning Lab on the first floor (see the “before” and “after” of that space at right), the administration suite on the first floor and the labs on the third and fourth floors also underwent major overhauls, and the building received new windows, bathrooms, HVAC systems, and lighting.

From 4 to 6 p.m. the same day, teachers are especially invited to check out the Learning Lab after school. Six years in the making, the Learning Lab was able to be built in conjunction with the other renovation plans. New cabinets and shelves contain thousands of fossil, rock, and mineral specimens; building stones like limestone, marble, and granite; and cave stalactites and stalagmites collected before such activity became illegal.

“We’ve never had an area for teaching, and we’ve never had a space for the Education Collection to be viewed publicly,” said Polly Sturgeon, IGWS education and outreach coordinator.

Geology Weekend events.

The collection was pulled together over the past several years from disparate outbuildings, closets, offices, labs, and the basement. A partial mammoth or mastodon tusk, left on a bookshelf when a geologist retired, now occupies a place of prominence in the Learning Lab. Everything has been organized and cataloged, making it more useful, and Sturgeon believes, more valuable now that items are displayed in a proper way. “Now that we know what we have, we can finally use them. … Once you give it value, people will treat it inherently better,” she said.

PLAN A VISIT to the Learning Lab.

June is Limestone Month in Monroe County, so Geology Weekend activities will continue on Saturday, June 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The IGWS will host a free Limestone Month Festival in the new, grassy Northwest Quad behind the building. This all-ages event will include activities like limestone carving, a photo booth, fossil and rock inspecting, and lessons and games provided by area museums. Food trucks and vendors will also be present.

See the flyer below for more information on Geology Weekend events or visit our events page here.

Look for more Limestone Month activities to be announced on Visit Bloomington’s website.