Chadron State College's first museum was conceived in 1938 by college president Robert Elliott in discussions with celebrated vertebrate paleontologist E.H. Barbour of Lincoln and Barbour's daughter and CSC's first geology professor, Eleanor Barbour Cook. With help from her father and others, Eleanor Cook began endowing the museum collections with donated specimens from around the world. Part of Crites Hall, then under construction, was set aside for the museum. Albert Potter, the first graduate of CSC's geology program, was hired as an assistant.
The early museum was more of a "natural history" museum than one strictly devoted to geoscience. Records indicate that the early collections contained 585 vertebrate fossils, 637 invertebrate fossils, 700 minerals, 284 modern shells and corals, 111 mounted birds and 19 mounted mammals.
Mrs. Cook and Potter donated parts of their own collections to the museum and also enlisted help of their colleagues, including Barbour, Mrs. Cook's father-in-law Harold Cook and her sons-in-law Grayson Meade and Paul McGrew, Edwin Crites, Charles H. Morrill, E.F. Schramm, Edith Harris, F.D. Figgins, Gordon Fletcher and others. Major donor institutions included the University of Nebraska Museum and Geology Department, Chicago's Field Museum, the University of Michigan, Colorado Natural History Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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