RSM Research & Collections Building

From impressive exhibits of Indigenous culture to massive fossilized dinosaurs - the Royal Saskatchewan Museum offers visitors an incredibly diverse and engaging learning opportunity. Recently, I was privileged to get a behind the scenes look at the museum’s Research and Collections Building. This satellite location is filled with specimens numbering in the hundreds of thousands and home to some of the top minds in their fields.
The Research and Collections Building is a quiet place with a handful of the most interesting and passionate people you’ll ever meet - people who have dedicated their lives to their work. Carpenter Ken Gaffney physically builds exhibits and he’s faced some rather interesting builds, including the Snakes Alive exhibit. He explained that the snake habitats were particularly challenging, saying “it was the first time I’ve had to build anything that would house live creatures.” Ken is just one member of the team that’s responsible for the birth of a museum exhibit.
Ryan McKellar is an individual whose name and work I had read about numerous times before having the pleasure to meet face-to-face. Ryan is the Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, in other words, he works tirelessly to understand the world of spineless animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs. What’s particularly interesting about Ryan’s research is how radically it differs from the research methods of vertebrate palaeontology. Where vertebrate fossils such as dinosaurs are painstakingly chiseled from the earth, Ryan is using tree sap, also known as amber, to paint a clearer picture of invertebrate life in Saskatchewan and the rest of the world millions of years ago. To answer the question that I’m sure everyone is wondering - Ryan explained to me that it’s not possible to extract dinosaur DNA from a mosquito trapped in amber.
Cory Sheffield is the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and his research focuses specifically on bees. There are 200 described species of bees in Saskatchewan, 800 in Canada and, with Cory’s work, that number is climbing. Cory examines the human impact on bee populations and looks at means of encouraging and managing native bee pollination. There’s no other way to say it other than - Cory is kind of a big deal. He’s currently a member of the arthropod sub-committee for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Cory also has endless peer-reviewed publications to his name and is frequently asked to review the publications of colleagues.
The next time you visit the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, take a second glance at your favourite display: consider the time and energy that lead to its creation and think about the research that makes it both factual and interesting.
Thank you to all of the staff at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum for the tour and their time!