What started out as a small library room at New Jersey City University has been transformed into a new museum, filled with exhibits and specimens such as rocks from New Jersey, environmental maps, a display on how coal is naturally made, and pollutants that harm the environment.
For one of the professors, the urbanness of Jersey City means that a lot of nearby residents don’t know about the world itself, and the museum is a way of connecting the climate crisis by using everyday items that everyone uses.
The NJCU Earth Museum provides an educational opportunity for NJCU students, staff, faculty and community to learn about the planet as the world faces climate change, a depletion of natural resources, and other environmental challenges.
The project was created in the university’s Science Building by three professors: Hun Bok Jung, Associate Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who initiated and supervised the project; Mark Zdziarski, Geoscience Laboratory Technician, and George Papcun, an adjunct professor, whom the two collected specimens and created the displays.
The project got started at the very end of 2019, but it went on hold after the university shut down because of COVID-19 in March 2020. Zdziarski and Papcun came back this May and began working on it, assembling about 1,000 to 1,200 specimens, some of which is equipment that the department collected over 30 to 40 years.
The new place serves a dual purpose as both a museum and a place to teach and have discussions with students and others.
“There’s different ways of learning,” said Zdziarski. “There’s lectures, and then there’s also types of learning that’s a little bit more self driven to study curiosity. So you can bring groups in here and break them up into small groups and have discussions, and the professor would be the guide on the side.”
Jung says that Jersey City has a lack of educational opportunities for this kind of topic in the community, especially ones that are underserved. So he sees it as a mission to serve the community in a public university.
“I want to invite people in this local community to the university to come to the museum and learn about the Earth and the environment,“ he said.
He hopes that the museum will increase environmental awareness, including different types of pollution and global climate change.
“When they come to this museum and they see the various displays, they can learn more about our environment,” he said. “They can think more about protecting our planet and environment.”