By Robert F Diffendal Jr
Nebraska has an excellent geological record, which is celebrated by some fine mosaics at the Nebraska State Capitol.
When the building was being constructed, and at the request of Prof Hartley Burr Alexander of the University of Nebraska Philosophy Department and from drawings by his colleague Dr Erwin H Barbour (former director of the University of Nebraska State Museum), the artist, Hildreth Meière, was asked to create a series of mosaics. These are now set out on the floor of the rotunda for all to see.
To publicise and illustrate these mosaics, Robert Diffendal has produced two short books. The first (Mosaics in the Rotunda) gives an interesting description of who produced them, why they were commissioned and how they were constructed – from concept to design. It also describes and provides full colour photos of the original concept drawings and how the ideas were translated into the mosaics. In addition, there is an appendix containing definitions and additional information.
And the second is a children’s colour and activities book to use when visiting the rotunda. In simple language, it explains what to look out for, how to look at the mosaics and what they are portraying.
For example, if the mosaic illustrates a crinoid, these sea creatures are explained in the context of the mosaic. The black and white photos and illustrations can be coloured in and, given that the animals and plants covered range from ammonites to tree ferns and mastodons to pines, there is plenty that younger visitors can understand and plenty for them to learn about on subjects they do not yet understand.
Fossils on the Floor: Mosaics in the Rotunda of the Nebraska State Capitol, by Robert F Diffendal Jr, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska (2015), 79 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-15-61610-45-7
Fossils on the Floor in the Nebraska State Capitol: A Coloring and Activities Book, by Robert F Diffendal Jr, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska (2015), 60 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-15-61610-46-4