The world's largest collection of fossils from a heritage site near Cache Creek has found its new home at the Royal BC Museum.

The collection, which consists of an estimated 18,000 specimens from the McAbee heritage site, comes from the findings of the late John Leahy, who managed the site, and his colleague David Langevin.

Together, Leahy and Langevin would study the McAbee site as a hobby – one that led to the findings of some of B.C.’s oldest specimens from the early Eocene Epoch, 52 million years ago.

The Royal BC Museum thanked the families of Leahy and Langevin at today’s display of some of the fossils, where many words of appreciation were shared about this significant contribution.

“This is an incredible donation of so many countless hours of work that these men put in,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, “the collection is immense…it really gives us the opportunity to educate people in British Columbia about the importance of our natural history.”

Popham also announced a B.C.-wide campaign encouraging citizens to vote for an official provincial fossil, in efforts to further enrich the province’s heritage.

Angela Williams, the museum’s deputy CEO, says that this specific collection has provincial significance due to its authenticity. 

“We collect to understand where we came from, as a people, as a society,” said Williams. "Museums like ourselves are just so delighted when we receive collections like this because it adds to the depth of the collections that we hold which [are] representative of the entire province.”

Of the 18,000 specimens donated to the museum, many of the pieces comprise numerous different organisms such as plants, insects, fish, etc. and are still being unpacked and examined by museum staff. 

“It’s quite a beautiful thing to think that John [Leahy], who was a teacher in Kamloops, will continue to educate children in the future [from his findings],” said Popham. 

The fossils are expected to be available for public display at the Royal BC Museum in the future, but for now, they can be seen on the museum’s website