Upon the National Museum’s establishment in 1901, the Geology and Paleontology Division is one of the first disciplines of the National Museum, along with other natural sciences like botany, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology and mammalogy. However, it was only in 1947, during the National Museum’s re-creation, when it was officially considered as a separate division by virtue of Executive Order No. 094. It was named Geology-Paleontology Division with Mr. Inocentes Paniza as its first chief geologist. It had three sections namely: Structural Geology, Dynamic Geology, and Paleontology.
The division’s initial goal was to rehabilitate its collection after the devastating war. The collection was augmented through extensive field expeditions and through donations, exchanges, and purchases from other organizations and museums. The Bureau of Mines provided most of the donated specimens at that time. Apart from collection build-up, the division continued its research studies with focus on mapping Pleistocene sediment deposits. This is in support of the museum’s project in discovering the earliest human fossils in the Philippines.
When fossils of elephants and rhinoceros were discovered in the 1950s, research activities of the division focused on mammalian fossil localities such as the Cabarruyan Island in Pangasinan and in Kalinga-Apayao. Eventually, more research areas were added such as the Tabon Cave in Palawan, and the provinces of Iloilo and Cagayan. These field expeditions yielded more than 150 mammalian fossils associated with man-made flake tools bringing credence to the theory of Philippine prehistory dating as far back as 500,000 years ago.
During the 1970s, when the country was placed under martial law, the division name was changed to Geology Division. Ushering this change is the introduction of its new sections: the Geological Survey Section, Petrology and Mineralogy Section, and the Paleontology Section. Since then, these sections have set the objectives of the division’s research and exhibitions for the following years. The division conducted various studies such as palynology of sediments from Quezon, Palawan; zooplankton research in Aklan, and geologic survey of several provinces for the reference collection. In 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted, the Geology Division spearheaded an exhibition at the Old Congress Building where photographs of Mt. Pinatubo before, during, and after the eruption were displayed. Following the public’s interest in volcanoes, a luggage-type exhibition featuring the different rocks and minerals of the country was set-up in Cagsawa Branch Museum in Bicol.
As the explorations and researches revealed significant results, the division earned recognition and respect from fellow earth science researchers. The division was invited to be part of the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS). This committee is responsible, among others, for the declaration of national geologic monuments such as the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte, the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan, and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol.
To better bring the museum experience closer to its audience, the Geology Division launched in 2000 its Travelling Exhibition project. Nine luggage-type portable exhibition cases feature geological specimens and the tectonic history of the country. These exhibits were meant to be brought to several elementary schools around the country, especially those far from the National Museum and its regional museums. The travelling exhibit aims to supplement the classroom activities of the students. The project was such a success that in 2003, more portable exhibit cases were made, with economic geology, and historical geology added to the exhibition topics. The travelling exhibits reached schools as far as Negros Occidental.
Research activity of the division has also advanced as it focused on a more interdisciplinary approach. Apart from collaborating mainly with archaeology, the division partnered with the Cultural Properties Division, the Anthropology Division, and to the natural history group like Botany Division and Zoology Division.
The division was officially called the Geology and Paleontology Division following the National Museum’s major re-organization in 2016. The following years were devoted to collecting exhibition-quality specimens as the natural history group prepared to open the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The NMNH was officially opened in 2018 where three main galleries highlight the geologic wonders of the country.
At present, the division is focused in (1) developing new and engaging exhibitions for the NM’s regional museums, (2) modernizing and upgrading its storage facilities and laboratories to international standards, and (3) enhancing its current programs for the public.