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The Museum of Natural and Cultural History traces its lineage to Thomas Condon, first science professor of the University of Oregon. Condon’s story in Oregon began in 1852 when, at age 30, he arrived as a Congregationalist missionary intent on bringing the light of knowledge to the pioneers. Interested in fossils since his youth, he had carefully learned the ideas of modern geological sciences as educational background required for his seminaries. When fossils were discovered in central Oregon’s John Day Basin in the 1860s, Rev. Condon was the most knowledgeable paleontologist in the Oregon Territory, and, with his congregation in The Dalles, ideally located to receive the finds. His first visit to the John Day region was in 1865, and many more followed over the next decades.
At the university’s founding in 1876, Thomas Condon, already the State Geologist, was the natural choice for the initial science professor. He moved to Eugene with his large collection of fossils, made with the intention of educating the people of Oregon about their wonderful natural history. He used his specimens in classes, illustrating his points with the actual fossils that recorded the history of life.
After Condon’s death in 1907, his fossils became the nucleus of the Condon Museum, today part of the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The people of Oregon owe a debt of gratitude to the forward-thinking man who ensured that future generations could fully appreciate the richness of the state’s natural history. This web gallery illustrates gems from Condon’s personal collection. The compass was given to him by famous paleontologist O.C. Marsh, to thank him for assistance in the field when he visited Oregon in the early 1870s. Photos by Lieke Dircks, text by Edward Davis, and web development by Keith Hamm. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation.
Clark, Robert D.
1989 The Odyssey of Thomas Condon: Irish Immigrant, Frontier Missionary, Oregon Geologist. Oregon Historical Society Press.
1902 The Two Islands And What Came of Them. J.K. Gill Co., Portland. (Available free from Google Books: search for The Two Islands)
McCornack, Ellen Condon and Henry Fairfield Osborn.
1928 [reissued 2001] Thomas Condon, Pioneer Geologist of Oregon. University of Oregon Press, Eugene.
- Anthropology Collections
- Paleontology Collections
- Geology Collections
- Zoology Collections
- Web Galleries
- Aboriginal Australian Bark Paintings
- Ammonite Fossils
- Birds' Eggs
- Birds' Nests
- Brachiopod Fossils
- Chupícuaro Figurines
- Condon Collection
- Ethiopian Collection
- Fancy Footwear
- Fossil Type Specimens
- Great Basin Basketry
- Great Basin Sandals
- Inupiaq Baleen Baskets
- Klamath Basketry
- Klamath River Basin Basketry Caps
- Kuna Molas
- Masks of the Northwest Coast and Alaska
- Métis Textiles
- Navajo, Pueblo, and other Southwestern Weavings
- Oregon - Where Past is Present
- Oregon's Fossil Heritage
- Petrified Wood
- Plains and Plateau Beadwork
- Plateau Basketry: Cornhusk Bags
- Plateau Basketry: Sally Bags
- Rocks and Minerals: Everyday Uses
- Saber-toothed Salmon
- Tapa Cloth
- Tlingit Spruce Root Baskets
- UO Comparative Primate Collection
- Vertebrate Skulls
- Wisner Shells
- World Harmony