UNEARTHED: Art & Science Survey the Fossil Record

April 27, 2024 - September 29, 2024

Old City Hall


Everything we know about extinct animals we have learned from scientists’ careful study of the fossil record: not just a fossil’s dimensions but also its placement, the types of rock and sediment that envelope it, maybe even fragments of iridium – a silvery-white metal – that indicate a cataclysmic event, like an asteroid impact.

But when you think about a saber-toothed cat, do you picture a fossil? Or do you imagine a powerful, sinewy Ice Age carnivore stalking its prey in the open plains millions of years ago? If you’ve ever watched a movie about dinosaurs, read an article about woolly mammoths, or explored a paleontology exhibition at any museum in the world, you didn’t only see fossils. Illustrations and animations depicted how these animals might have looked and behaved. You saw them brought back to life through art.

Unearthed: Art & Science Survey the Fossil Record celebrates the work of acclaimed scientific illustrator David W. Miller with his largest-ever collection of paleoart on display. The exhibition centers the artistry of this niche field with more than 60 richly detailed paintings of the wildest creatures of the past along with their fossil counterparts, on loan from the Burke Museum and the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. And on view for the first time is a fossil of a woolly mammoth molar from the Whatcom Museum’s permanent collection as well as Miller’s newest painting depicting the mammoth in its Pleistocene habitat.


About David W. Miller
Miller attended Montserrat School of Visual Art in Beverly, MA, and the Art Students League of New York. His work can be seen in numerous books and publications and has graced the halls of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Yale Peabody Museum, the Burke Museum in Seattle, and the National Museum of Science and Industry in London. Miller also serves as the Whatcom Museum’s preparator and drew the nearly 500 illustrations on display in the museum’s John M. Edson Hall of Birds.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.