The Boreal Museum Offers a Closer Look at the Natural World

By Bonnie Schiedel

Thunder Bay now has a new opportunity to explore natural history through the Boreal Museum. Created by Jason Feller, a Lakehead grad with a degree in biology and a background in the heritage sector, it consists of artifacts from Feller’s personal collection as well as items donated by the community. “We have a passion for natural history and sciences. Right now, we’re creating education and fun science moments for kids and adults alike through science kits and pop-up exhibitions,” explains Feller. “We really want to inspire future generations to become lifelong learners and help everyone understand the world, our climate, and what’s going on in their backyards in Thunder Bay.”

Feller had his first collections of artifacts ready to go in early 2020, with the intent of bringing portable exhibits to schools, birthday parties, and community events. Pandemic restrictions, of course, put those plans on hold, so Feller switched gears, making an outdoor pop-up exhibit about natural transformations of frogs, butterflies, and dragonflies during Thunder Pride, and offering a kid-friendly science kit for sale in December. More science kits are coming up, including a garden-themed kit for March Break and a “summer explorer” kit scheduled for May. Eventually he hopes to have a permanent physical site for visitors to come to.

Feller says he’s also been working on developing his exhibits for when it’s safe to gather again, including one centred around a recent donation of a polar bear skull and fur. Another exhibit is ready to go. “It’s microscope tables that actually deal with the fossils in our area, as well as some fossils from outside [the area], and you’re able to use the handheld electronic microscopes to see the fossils. You can see the life and the science through the Devonian [period], the Cretaceous [period] to almost the present day,” says Feller. “You can look inside of a dinosaur bone and see the blood vessels that fossilized inside of there.” 

His favourite artifacts include two theropod dinosaur eggs from the late Cretaceous period, roughly 100 million years ago. A cruise through the museum’s Facebook page, @borealmuseum, reveals images of a piece of Triceratops rib bone, fossilized teeth from a Mosasaur, and coprolites, a.k.a. 54-million-year-old fossilized poop from a turtle in Madagascar. 

“A lot of the fossils that we have are actually local and [came] out of Lake Superior, […] 400-million-year-old fossil shells and corals from when this area used to be an ocean,” Feller says. He is also looking forward to his next steps. “I’m really excited to be able to bring this and more learning and more fun into our community.”
Visitborealmuseum.comfor more information.