Lots of New Jersey residents end up at Rutgers University at some point in their lives; even a Mastodon from Salem County.
The Mastodon skeleton, unearthed in 1869 and mounted for the first time in 1896, is one of the featured exhibits of the Rutgers Geology Museum.
The museum itself is nearly as old, having been founded in 1872. And on Saturday, it opened its doors to the public for its 45th annual Open House.
Families participated in hands-on activities and looked over the museum's exhibits, which includes fluorescent minerals, Egyptian artifacts, including a 2,400-year-old mummy, and dinosaur fossils, while in nearby Scott Hall, lecturers discussed earthquakes, Uranium-eating bacteria and the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey shore.
A mineral sale also drew crowds of collectors looking through hundreds of specimens in search of the right rock.
The event was free and designed to suit visitors of all ages.
K-12 education is the museum's biggest priority, as many schools take advantage of its resources, said Associate Director Lauren Neitzke Adamo.
Seeing a towering Mastodon skeleton in front of you is quite a different experience than looking at a picture in a book, she said.
"A lot of these kids will never get to see these things," she said.
Rutgers students are a big part of the museum's educational efforts, as nearly two dozen of them work there through a work study program, maintaining the exhibits and running the museum store, Neitzke Adamo said.
The museum's next family-friendly event is the Feb. 6 date of the "Late Nights at the Museum" program that takes place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.
On Feb. 6, the topic of the night will be Egypt, and will cover mummies and ancient Egyptian culture through activity stations and tours of the museum's exhibits. It is free to attend.
The Rutgers Geology Museum is located at Geology Hall, 85 Somerset St. in New Brunswick.
For more information about the Rutgers Geology Museum, including a list of exhibits and its hours of operation, visit http://geologymuseum.rutgers.edu.