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July 2, 2014

Exploring a Museum and Its Operations

Tom McLaughlin

Bozeman, Montana – I had travelled all this way to see the Museum of the Rockies and, when I walked in, there was an exhibit of Geckos. I had to walk outside and read the sign again to make sure I had not been transported back home to Malaysian Borneo.


But, sure enough, a display of the little four footed creatures that run around my apartment overlooking the Sarawak River was there for me to enjoy.


We quickly entered the first "hall' and found ourselves in the "Pioneer" section. This was filled with the artifacts used by the mighty first white humans who made their home on the prairie. Old restored cars, horse drawn buggies of every description, gold mining tools, guns and an old Great Plains mud home were featured.


The American Indians had a small display of bead work and the various tribes that lived in the area. There were many, about 20 different groups who roamed here, mainly shooting buffalo and elk. They would then move south before the onset of winter, late September or early October here.


Dinosaurs took up the next part of the building. There was a display of a brontosaurus being attacked by two small critters that could climb on to its back and strike its long neck. Both were to scale and huge indeed. A triceratops is also displayed in all of its bone glory. The collection houses 13 Tyrannosaurus rex skulls, the largest in the world.


There was a display of dinosaurs and how they were found and processed for exhibition by the museum. The process was to find a large reptile, cover it in a plaster cast and then, using helicopters or large trucks, ship it to the museum where men and women with tooth filling picks to drill away the excess stone. There was a window where three different people were working on a dinosaur, each meticulously grinding away.


Dr. Jack Horner, the leader of the dinosaur project, is now trying to turn chickens back into dinosaurs. He is looking at the tail and trying to find the three genes that will enable it to elongate. Then, he will do the same with wings, which will become the front hands and then rebalance the bird on hind legs. Neat!


Bozeman is an atypical town in that it contains about 15,000 students from Montana State University, but in June, one would never guess this. It is spread out over several miles with shopping centers and eateries on its periphery. Coming in from that vantage point of south western Montana, one sees acres and acres of shopping malls culminating in a large one street downtown, where, I assume, most of the students party.


However, there were just a few bars to accommodate the revelry.  Compared to my college town at Athens, Ohio, there were, and I assume still are, a line of bars about a mile and half long.


The town of Bozeman and its Museum of the Rockies is a must hit when one is travelling to Yellowstone Park, which is the subject of my next column.


...Life is good. . . . .


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