Smith Hall home to ancient, rare artifacts

Built in 1909 and named after Eugene Allen Smith, appointed state geologist in 1873, The University of Alabama’s Smith Hall has housed the Alabama Museum of Natural History for more than 100 years.

The museum is home to some of Alabama’s rare pieces of history. It has items that date back millions of years ago, including Basilosaurus cetoides, Alabama’s state fossil and a shrunken human head.

“A museum is like a library, where people go to learn, or like a park, where people can go to enjoy,” Randy Mecredy, director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, said.

“It’s a great source of natural history and a great timeline for the rich history of Alabama,” Dalton Bryant, a sophomore and museum employee, said.

One of the most noticeable attractions is the full Basilosaurus fossil hanging from the ceiling in the main gallery.

“A lot of the times people stop in here to see the Basilosaurus fossil, which is one of the most popular attractions,” Bryant said.

Along with the Basilosaurus, the museum also has the largest collection of Mosasaur, an ancient swimming reptile and a set of 300-million-year-old Cincosaurus footprints.

The Hodges Meteorite, another artifact in the museum, is the only meteorite confirmed to ever strike a human. In 1954, Sylacauga, Ala., resident Ann Hodges awoke when a meteorite smashed through her roof and hit her leg, leaving only a bruise.

Because the museum is set up as a self-guided tour, information about the historical artifacts is available throughout the museum.

“We try and put things on display that allow the viewer to be intellectually stimulated,” Mecredy said. “Often times, people don’t realize that Alabama was covered by the ocean. With all of our fossils of marine life, viewers will get a sense of how Alabama was like many years ago.”