Nathan Oster

Town in pursuit of grants for building, museum reps target full-size dino casts

The strategy may have changed, but the vision of establishing a world-class dinosaur and geoscience museum that would complement the local history and geological exhibits already on display at the Greybull Museum has not
At its March meeting, the Greybull Town Council approved the terms of an exhibit agreement with the Big Horn Basin Dinosaur and Geoscience Museum (BHBDGM). It stipulates that the town will construct a building suitable for housing the exhibits that the BHBDGM secures, pay for the lighting, utilities and general upkeep of the facility and install security and surveillance to protect the building.
For its part, the BHBDGM has committed to creating, installing, maintaining and enhancing the exhibits to the standards of the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) as well as to staffing the museum and cleaning its interior and exhibits.
An official document-signing ceremony was held Wednesday morning at the Wyld Sage in downtown Greybull, with Nolan O’Neal and Erik Kvale representing the BHBDGM and Mayor Myles Foley and Administrator/Finance Director Carrie Hunt representing the town.
After providing a brief overview of the agreement, Hunt said the town intends to pursue grants to pay for the construction of the building.  It will embark on that pursuit with the aid of MC2, a Sheridan-based company with which the town council entered into an agreement for services in February.
“It’ll take a few years, but we all know how fast the time goes,” Hunt said. The goal, she would later say, is to add 4,500 square feet in total to the east and south sides of the existing library/museum building on Greybull Avenue.  About 3,000 square feet is proposed for the new dinosaur museum; the remaining 1,500 square feet would take the form of a corridor that connects the two museums but also has a gate so that access can be managed.
“Think of all the people who are going to stop here,” said Bill Hayes, a member of the Big Horn Council Citizens for Economic Development, upon witnessing the signing ceremony.
O’Neal predicted the new museum will be “a beautiful asset” to the community. “The most poignant thing is, we have these wonderful treasures that have found a way to every corner of the world except here,” he said. “It’s time to bring them home and enjoy having them.”
Kvale shared positive feedback he’d heard earlier in the week at a meeting of the Big Horn Basin Association of Museums, saying, “A number of people came up afterward and said how exciting it is that we’re getting this together.”
And Gerald Crist, who serves on the board that oversees the Greybull Museum, spoke of it as a win for the Greybull Museum as well.  “Our display area will almost double what we have now,” he said, referring to the proposed corridor that will come off the backside of the museum and lead to doors on the the southwest corner of the BHBDGM.
“We had dreamed of 800 square feet ... the display area is actually greater than that,” Crist said. “It will allow the Greybull Museum to move all of our fossils and artifacts. It will open up the whole interior of our museum to show more of the things we have in storage — more of our local history, more of our Native American history. And that’s very exciting.”
According to a recent press release, the BHBDGM’s goal is to not just display the life-sized casts of these ancient animals but to also illustrate the world they lived in, the history of their excavation and their importance to science. They say such a museum would provide significant educational, economic, and social benefits for not just Greybull but surrounding communities as well.
Fundraising has gone very well to this point, with the BHBDGM already one third of the way to its initial goal of securing $400,000 to purchase  four museum-quality casts of world-famous dinosaurs collected from local dinosaur quarries, including “Big Al 2” and “Sarah.”
The nonprofit organization’s website, bighornbasindinos.org, describes Big Al 2 as “the world’s most complete Allosaurus (a large meat-eating dinosaur that was the distant cousin to the Tyrannosaurs rex)” and Sarah as “one of the three most complete Stegosaurs (plant-eating dinosaurs with large boney plates on its back and spikes on its tail).”  They now reside in some of the best dinosaur museums in the world; the goal is to bring them back to Big Horn County where they were discovered.
“This is a rare chance for Greybull to become something more than a place for tourists to stop only for gas, lodging, and food,” the BHBDGM said in its release. “A quality dinosaur museum will be an enhancement to the town and will surely entice people to stop and see something they can’t see in Cody or in Yellowstone, and perhaps encourage them to explore our community. The museum envisioned by the BHBDGM and the Town of Greybull leaders will allow locals and visitors to connect some fascinating and impressive dinosaur paleontology directly to our area and history. This is a history of which we can be genuinely very proud.”
New roadmap
For a short time early on, the boards of the two museums considered collaborating on the proposed new museum.  The vision was for Greybull Museum to fundraise while working hand in hand with the Town of Greybull on the building project while the BHBDGM raised the money required to secure the exhibits.
That’s no longer the case, as each board essentially agreed to stay in its own lane. O’Neal cast that development in a positive light, as did Crist.  While the two boards agreed on most points, O’Neal said the biggest snag in the discussions was the Greybull Museum’s insistence upon having control over the new exhibits. That was a concession the BHBDGM was unwilling to make since the license holders of the full-sized casts require assurances that museum standards would be followed as well as how as the exhibits are arranged and displayed.
“We just realized along the way that we have different missions,” said O’Neal.  “Ours is to put up a dinosaur museum. That’s where our focus should be.  We’re working hard to get the support of national and international museums. To get that, they must know that we will do things the way they want them done.  The Greybull Museum has a different mission. Its mission is to preserve the culture of the town and its history and the artifacts that go along with that.”
Crist echoed those sentiments, saying, “What changed is how we go about managing the two different type of exhibits and the simple reality that the requirements of the full-size casts is so different from our existing collection.”
The new vision, Crist said, creates “one big museum complex with different management and display needs in each part. This gives complete freedom for each display space to be managed in the best way. Think of the different wings in the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West and how different each space displays its collection.”
Crist said the Town of Greybull currently supports the staff of the Greybull Museum for a limited amount of time, but that is expected to be phased out as the Greybull Museum becomes self-supporting for staffing its space.  “The Town of Greybull didn’t feel we have the budget to accept the additional staffing of the new display area and exhibits so the agreement with the BHBDGM is for them to fund and/or provide their own staffing. The Town of Greybull will provide the building as it currently does for the Greybull Museum.”
Unlike the proposed dinosaur museum which will require a ceiling height of at least 18 feet, Crist said the new expansion area for the Greybull Museum requires only an 8 foot ceiling, which will greatly decrease the cost of construction and future climate control.
Crist produced a sketch that showed this approach “does not destroy any of our existing exhibit area as we simply move the existing double wide rear door on the outside wall of the new expansion corridor.
“This is a win-win in many ways. It provides an ideal space for the Greybull Museum to arrange all of our current and stored displays in a ‘time walk’ from the current building through the display corridor to the full-size exhibits (of the BHBDGM). The display corridor will add 150 linear feet to our existing 95 linear feet of the outer walls in our current museum room. “
For more info
For those wishing to learn more about the project, Big Horn Basin Dinosaur and Geoscience Museum representatives have scheduled a presentation for Monday, April 29 at 6 p.m. in the Greybull Public Library lecture room.  It will cover why a dinosaur museum is needed, what it could look like and what they intend to put inside it with regards to displays.