Greg Retallack is a University of Oregon geology professor. Recently, he donated most of it to the University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Retallack was born in Hobart, the capital of Australia's island state of Tasmania.
Retallack’s collection exceeds 9,000 items, and his donated pieces will be added to the Condon Collection, which is part of the museum's paleontological holdings. In addition to a wide variety of fossils and rocks, the Condon Collection includes the personal holdings of Thomas Condon, the UO's first geology professor, which were obtained soon after Condon's death in 1907.
Along with catalogued pieces, Retallack's donation also includes 129 field notebooks filled cover-to-cover with handwritten details about the fossils he collected and where each came from. The notebooks will be an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to study the pieces further, Retallack said, noting that fossil collections purchased commercially rarely include information on where the items were found.
Ensuring that the fossils have a permanent home was one reason behind the donation, Retallack said, but he also hopes that by becoming part of the museum collections the pieces will be more accessible to the general public and to researchers.
However, given the size of the collection—approximately 26 cubic yards of fossils altogether, with individual pieces ranging in size from a large slab of fossil palm leaves from central Oregon to tiny microfossils of Precambrian cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)—that may prove difficult in the near future, say museum officials.
The Condon Collection already fills its current space to capacity, but plans are underway for an additional wing to be added to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History to house the paleontological collections. The museum currently is building a new curation center to house anthropological and archaeological collections.