ACC students get hands-on learning with rare historical fossils

The call came unexpectedly, and in that moment Torvald Hessel’s life took a turn.

“I didn’t believe it. This is the story of life, and it was coming to my museum,” says Hessel, ACC professor as well as co-founder and executive director of the Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TXMOST). The museum opened a year ago in Cedar Park.Dino 7

The Genesis Exhibit is a rare collection of artifacts and fossils spanning over three billion years from the first cells and earliest invertebrate marine life, through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous dinosaurs and beyond. For years it traveled the world, but its owner wanted to find it a permanent home. He wanted it to be in Hessel’s hands at TXMOST, and he was donating it, free of charge.

In a matter of days trucks filled with the ancient artifacts rolled into the parking lot at TXMOST.

Watch ACC students help prepare prehistoric exhibit

“January 29, 2016, that day is burned in my head,” says Tanya Laird, director of collections and management at TXMOST and an ACC alumna. “We started unloading. It was just boxes and boxes.”

Dino 3The boxes filled the warehouse. Without full documentation of what was inside each container, Hessel and his modest-sized staff needed help.

“Every box that we opened up was a total surprise,” says Hessel. “They were labeled pots and pans or clothes. We never knew what would be inside.”

Hessel turned to the students at ACC, inviting his class and others to a hands-on learning experience working with the museum staff to sort and catalog the exhibit for display.

“I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. Anything that I can get my hands on to help visualize what we’re learning makes for a better learning experience” says Kevin Schulte, ACC student. “It starts to click more than just the lecture notes or the reading.”

Dino 6“Where else can you get an experience to actually see this from its inception to going out on the museum floor?” says Hessel.

“It’s amazing to see everything before it becomes the final product,” says David Serrato. “It’s what we’re studying in the classroom suddenly laid out before our eyes. It’s the most hands-on experience you could ask for.”

The volunteer opportunities are available to all ACC students. For more information contact ACC Geology professor Ron Johns at 512-223-6002 at [email protected].

To learn more about the exhibit, visit

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