You can witness the deep history of Johnson County anytime a highway project or other construction site disgorges a massive tumble of limestone. The remnants of the so-called “inland ocean” define the region’s landscape in subtle and varied ways. And they can also can reveal the embedded record of lost and diverse species.
Those kinds of prehistoric messages about the life of our planet now are coming into full view with the recent opening of the Museum at Prairiefire. The museum is an unusual and welcome anchor attraction for the new complex at 135th Street and Nall Avenue, which offers an array of high-end retail, commercial and residential facilities.
This extraordinary private-public project gains cachet from its affiliation with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The New York museum will supply an ongoing stream of exhibits meant to enlighten and capture the imagination of children and adults with discoveries of the sciences of the natural world. Its opening main exhibit, for example, traces the fragile and essential role of water for people and the planet.
The museum last week announced the generous donation of a large cache of Kansas fossils, collected in the early 20th century by amateur paleontologist Charles H. Sternberg. The fossils, some dating back 85 million years, include a 17-foot-long skeleton of a marine reptile and a 16-foot-long skeleton of a large bony fish. The collection had been destined for private auction, but, thankfully, the San Diego Museum of Natural History was persuaded to give them to the Museum at Prairiefire.
The attractive and educational Museum at Prairiefire adds mightily to the cultural assets of Johnson County.