Dino museum would feature full-body casts

Nathan Oster

Backers of plan share their vision with town

A proposed 3,000 square foot museum building featuring full-body casts of dinosaurs from the Jurassic period whose discoveries in quarries and dig sites in Big Horn County made headlines around the world would generate economic development and be an educational resource for the community.
That was the pitch that Nolan O’Neal and Eric Kvale, appearing on behalf of the Bighorn Basin Dinosaur and Geoscience Center, made to members of the Greybull Town Council on Monday night as the two men announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for exhibits that would be showcased in the proposed building.
A website dedicated to that cause — bighornbasindinos.org — is scheduled to launch today.
The presentations by O’Neal and Kvale followed one by George Kelso, who spoke for the Greybull Museum.  It, too, has some irons in the fire.  After languishing for years, the museum is humming with freshened-up exhibits and new attractions made possible by an inspired group of volunteers who logged more than 500 hours this year.
Initially seen as a disaster, a broken water line that flooded the building about this time a year ago turned out to be a “fortuitous event,” Kelso said, citing a lengthy list of accomplishments that led to one of the best years ever in terms of visitation, with around 600 people touring the museum in 2023.
Recent talks between the two museum boards ended with the Greybull Museum reps agreeing to take the lead on fundraising, likely through state grants, for the construction of the 3,000 square foot building, preferably in the form of an addition to the east side of the current museum.
Bighorn Basin Dinosaur and Geoscience Center reps agreed to take the lead on fundraising for the exhibits.  The possibilities are endless.
“The treasures of this area are well known across the country and across the world ... but the communities in this area don’t benefit from them as much as we could,” said O’Neal.  “We’ve got the world’s attention.  What we don’t have is a place for them to center and spend a little more time when they are traveling through.”
Kvale spoke of the geological uniqueness of this area, which for major oil and gas companies have historically used as a training ground for their geologists and which annually attracts students from as many as 17 different colleges and universities.
The proposed building would feature dinosaurs from the Jurassic period, some 145 million years ago, many of which were taken out of the Howe and Red Canyon quarries as well as the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite.  It would also include exhibits detailing how they were discovered and, in the case of the dinosaurs, how the bones ended up in museums around the world.  
Kvale mentioned several of these famous beasts during Monday’s presentation:
• Big Al 1 and Big Al 2, both of which were discovered by Kirby Siber on BLM land near Shell.  At the time of its discovery, Big Al I was considered the most complete Allosaur skeleton ever found.  Big Al 2, which came later, was even more complete.
• Sarah the Stegosaur. Famous because it sold for more than $2 million, it’s now on display at the London Museum of Natural History.
•  A long-tailed, long-necked sauropod that was taken from the Howe Quarry and which is now on display at a museum in Switzerland.
• A camarasaurus on display at a dinosaur museum in Japan that’s more than 95 percent complete.
• Baby Toni, the most complete and smallest juvenile sauropod ever discovered.
• An allosaur nest that’s on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.  It’s the only display in the world that shows an allosaur in an egg-laying position.
Kvale added that the connections he’s made with museums and research groups around the world are going to be helpful when it comes time to secure exhibits and materials of interest for the museum being proposed for Greybull.
Literature that Kvale and O’Neal shared with members of the council on Monday night further suggested that the museum would provide “educational, economic and social benefits” for our communities.
A world-class museum of this kid “would give more people a reason to stop in Greybull, or perhaps even design their route to come to Greybull,” Kvale said. He said he remembers, as a child, reading a story in the Standard that said 1 million people pass beneath the town’s only stoplight in a year.  “If you can get each of those people spending on average 50 cents, just think of the economic impact that could have in this community.”