Jon C. Pigage Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Laboratory open house at UCCS

23 April 2019

Brianna Kraemer

[email protected]

    The Jon C. Pigage Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Laboratory is hosting an open house on April 25 from 3-5 p.m. The Museum is located in the Osborne Center in room B402.

    Helen Pigage and Katie Collier are two individuals who are keeping the museum running since it was established by Jon Pigage. When the museum first opened, it was located in Centennial Hall in a very small area. In 2009, when the Osborne Center was built, it was moved into a much larger lab room in the new building.

    Jon Pigage had been teaching mammalogy in Chicago at Governor State University when his wife Helen received a job at the Air Force Academy in 1993. A year after Helen moved to Colorado Springs, Jon began teaching at UCCS. He taught the mammalogy course that was offered until he passed away in the Fall of 2017. He created the museum as a mammalogy teaching collection that was used for his class.

    At the museum, there are hundreds of different specimens to examine that range from pigs and deer to bear, elk and moose.

    Many of the specimens at the museum were brought by Jon, however some have been donated or found and recovered by students. The university has also purchased many of the specimens, all which go to use for students to learn and understand the anatomy of these animals.

    Many of the specimens have stories behind how they ended up at UCCS. A horse that is in the process of being reconstructed was injured and had to be euthanized. Jon and two of his students defleshed the bones and it now is a part of the museum.

    Helen explained how the skulls and specimens become such a useful tool to students in the field saying, “He purchased or got a lot of coyotes’ skulls because that’s the best way to teach students the names of all of the bones in the skull, so everyone gets a coyote’s skull in the beginning of the semester.” The students then use the skull to study and learn from for the semester.

    Katie Collier is a senior majoring in biology. She spends many of her hours during the week and weekend helping to preserve the museum and continues to add new specimens to it. Part of her work consists of putting an organism’s bones together to create the final, realistic looking skeleton.  

    She uses her animal anatomy art book, Gorilla Glue and pins to replicate the figure of the animal. She took the mammalogy class with Jon back when she was a freshmen and remembers the exciting yet pressuring times.

    Collier said, “Lab exams are fun, so what you do is you’ve been studying a particular class of organisms. You get a clipboard when you come in and there is a specimen all over the tables and you get to identify what it is, what its scientific name is.”

    Although the class has not been taught since the fall 2017 semester, a new professor will be coming to UCCS this fall to start teaching the class again.

    While the room has been vacant for a couple of years now, Helen has been able to stay in the museum and maintain the room, keeping things up to date and organized. This fall she will be moving across the hall and starting a new position as a lab tech where she will continue to do research. Over the course of Helen’s career, she has taught at high schools and colleges, adding up to 45 years of teaching.

    Helen and Collier are working many hours to prepare for the open house. They are trying to keep the collection together and add new specimens to the collection. They know most people are not aware of the museum and are hoping the open house invites more people to see what it is. Collier explained “I’ve talked to people in the bio department that have no idea this exists and that makes me sad.”

    The open house should give light to the museum and allow more people to take advantage of the learning material available to them.