Jurassica Museum



Around 1750, when Christian Franz von Eberstein, provost of Basel Minster, started a collection of scientific objects for his cabinet of curiosities, little did he know that they would be seized by the French to teach science in the future École Centrale de Porrentruy.


In 1792, a botanical garden and central school for the capital of the Mont-Terrible department were created on orders from Paris. Antoine Lémane, a defrocked priest, was tasked with setting up both of these seats of scientific education. But he ran into a myriad of difficulties and the experiment is short lived: in 1815, the botanical garden became a vegetable patch once more.


Around 1830, Jules Thurmann was summoned to Porrentruy to restore scientific teaching at the newly established cantonal school. He oversaw the creation of the botanical garden and set up a geological and mineral collection.


In 1979, upon the founding of the Republic and Canton of Jura, the cantonal parliament, at its first session, voted to establish a museum in the Villa Beucler located close to the botanical garden.


In 1989, the Jura Natural Science Museum (Musée jurassien des sciences naturelles – MJSN) opened.


In 2000, during construction of the Transjurane motorway (A16), a small team of paleontologists worked alongside archeologists to survey the ground along the route. Known as the Paleontology Section, this team was part of the Cantonal Cultural Office and was tasked with preserving, documenting and analyzing the geological and paleontological remains found beneath this stretch of motorway.


Between 2001 and 2008, numerous discoveries were made along the motorway route, generating much media and scientific attention and raising local people's awareness of their rich regional heritage. A remarkable find of fossilised vertebrates and wood dating from the Oligocene (30 million years ago) unearthed beneath the Beuchille covered section to the south of Delémont made national headlines. Immediately afterwards, dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic era (152 million years ago) were discovered on the section between Porrentruy and Boncourt, garnering yet more interest. At other sites in Ajoie, excavations revealed fossils of molluscs, turtles, fish, crocodiles and plants from the same period. And in the Courtedoux and Boncourt region, the excavation of ancient sinkholes unearthed mammoth tusks and the bones of other species, such as the woolly rhinoceros and the steppe bison. The same year, the Jura Paleontological Foundation was established in Glovelier.


In 2008, the government presented a motion before the Jura parliament entitled Paléojura. It proposed to capitalize on these finds for scientific, tourism and educational purposes. The motion was adopted unanimously by the parliament in September 2008. A project director was appointed in March 2009. The project gradually got underway, with events such as open days and international scientific symposiums held at excavation sites. The Paléojura project also boosted development of the Jura Natural Science Museum. Activities and events became an integral part of the institution's annual program. Scientific research and education naturally followed as the Museum developed.


In 2012, the Jura parliament approved by a large majority a second motion presented by the government to continue developing the Paléojura project. Following this decision, the Jules Thurmann Foundation (Fondation Jules Thurmann – FJT) was established in Porrentruy on 27 September 2012. This new organisation took over from the Cantonal Culture Office (Office cantonal de la culture – OCC) in running Paléojura, taking on its operations and activities, as well as those of the Jura Natural Science Museum and its botanical garden.

The creation of this new structure, which took the form of a private foundation, gave added impetus to the Paléojura project. It allowed a more detailed approach to showcasing the Jura's natural heritage and the infrastructure required. To broaden the context from a purely paleontological one, a more global vision focused on natural science was adopted. In doing so, Paléojura gave way to JURASSICA.

As part of this approach, a policy of establishing new satellites – sites showcasing heritage out in the field – was pursued.


In 2013 and 2014, new satellite sites were opened: the Dinotec at the Cité des Microtechniques in Porrentruy, then the Banné Excavation Area on the Banné hill above Porrentruy. These two new additions complement the already existing Educational trail in Courtedoux. They represent the first pillar of the Jules Thurmann Foundation.


In 2015, JURASSICA received funding from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for the creation of an auxiliary geoscience service in the form of partnerships with universities, principally the University of Fribourg. This academic laboratory, which forms the second pillar of the Jules Thurmann Foundation, raises the region's profile within both the scientific community and the general public and aims to become a leading research and education center for geology and paleontology in Switzerland.


In 2016, the Jura parliament approved a third government motion concerning JURASSICA. It strengthened the institution's foundations and ensured its long-term sustainability and development. The motion also enabled the launch of an architectural design competition for the creation of a research and conservation center. This center will house and manage the canton's natural science, archeology and paleontology collections – including those from the excavations for the A16 motorway – as well as auxiliary geoscience service.


In 2017, as decided by parliament, the Jules Thurmann Foundation has been solely responsible for managing JURASSICA. It henceforth includes the museum, botanical garden, auxiliary geoscience service and satellite sites for hands-on discovery in the field. The Foundation is funded by cantonal and municipal subsidies, federal subsidies from the SERI, donations, as well as incomes from the museum, lectures and mandates. The cantonal subsidy is linked to a contract for the provision of services awarded by the Canton of Jura's Cultural Office.


Since 2023, JURASSICA is recognised as an institution of national value by the Federal Office of Culture and receives financial support for the running costs of museums and third-party collections.

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