Jun
07
2009

Wyoming museum in danger of closing

University of Wyoming Geological Museum: S. H. Knight's Tyrannosaurus sculture stands near the museum entrance.
University of Wyoming Geological Museum: S. H. Knight's Tyrannosaurus sculture stands near the museum entrance.Courtesy Mark Ryan
News has come out that the University of Wyoming will close its Geological Museum in Laramie, Wyoming as part of cost-cutting measures to offset an $18 million budget deficit.

This is terrible news, and hopefully not a trend for small-scale museums. The UW Geological Museum is not only a wonderful museum and repository of many important fossils, but its link to the early days of American paleontology gives it an historical significance not found at other museums.

William Harlow Reed: A portrait and plaque mark the pioneer paleontologist's work at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum.
William Harlow Reed: A portrait and plaque mark the pioneer paleontologist's work at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum.Courtesy Mark Ryan
One of the museum’s early curators was none other than William Harlow Reed who, as a worker for the Union Pacific Railroad, discovered nearby Como Bluff, one of the richest dinosaur graveyards in the world. The quarries at Como produced a number of well-known Late Jurassic dinosaurs during the late 19th century, and served and a battleground for the Bone Wars waged between pioneer paleontologists Othniel C. Marsh (for whom Reed worked) and Edward Drinker Cope. Reed later served as curator of the museum for a dozen years until his death in 1915.

The closing doesn’t make sense especially since UW president Tom Buchanan said the decisions were made “trying to minimize the impact on teaching, research and service at the university,”

Big Al, the Geological Museum's allosaurus: Museum director and paleontologist Brent Breithaupt led the excavation of Big Al from a northern Wyoming quarry. The BBC featured the Jurassic predator in an episode of its series "Walking with Dinosaurs".
Big Al, the Geological Museum's allosaurus: Museum director and paleontologist Brent Breithaupt led the excavation of Big Al from a northern Wyoming quarry. The BBC featured the Jurassic predator in an episode of its series "Walking with Dinosaurs".Courtesy Mark Ryan
I’ve personally visited the museum on several occasions and have enjoyed it immensely each time. Museum director and paleontologist Brent Breithaupt will be one of two staff members whose jobs will be terminated by the closing.

Interested parties in the earth science community have set up an online petition to get the decision reversed. Hopefully, they’ll be successful.

LINKS
Laramie Boomerang story

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

shanai's picture
shanai says:

This is really sad to hear. Unfortunately, it's a situation that lots of small museums face in these economic times. Especially (it seems) museums with extensive collections that are challenging to interpret in ways that will continue to capture attention, and expensive to maintain.

posted on Sun, 06/07/2009 - 5:29pm
Alan's picture
Alan says:

I agree with you, it actually is very sad. I hope something will be done regarding this issue.

jak szybko schudnac

posted on Wed, 07/04/2012 - 9:06am
Erin Stoesz's picture
Erin Stoesz says:

The quality of this museum easily compares and far surpasses exhibits at the Field Museum and Smithsonian. Moreover, the the UW Geology Museum Director encourages and works with interested local students to develop innovative museum displays (many of which are done entirely through UNPAID volunteer work). This museum has and continues to play a very important role in inspiring, encouraging and enabling young geoscientists---our future. Of all the institutions at the University of Wyoming, this museum should not even be considered for closure.

posted on Tue, 06/09/2009 - 8:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What??? The University of Wyoming without a Museum?? What are they thinking? It will do little to reduce an $18 million deficit. As an alumnus of UWyo I am saddened by this news. Can't the UWyo administrators find corporate and/or alumni sponsors to contribute to a "save the museum fund drive?"

posted on Tue, 06/09/2009 - 11:43am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that the administration needs to re-think their plans. What are the use statistics of the Geological Museum, the American Heritage Center, the Rare Books Collection (in the AHC) and the Anaconda Collection (also in the AHC). I am sure that neither the rare books and Anaconda are used as much as the Geological Museum. Plus, they are a place where children can be inspired by science. At a time when science literacy is declining, cutting a science museum to retain rare books of interest to only a few scholars is absurd. How about selling one or two of the rare books in the AHC to retain the Museum?

posted on Tue, 06/09/2009 - 1:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think it is sad to hear that the museum is closing, however, the way many of the displays have been maintained, or updated is unbelievable. Every time I have been in the University of Wyoming Geological Museum I always see signs saying, “under construction” in the same exhibit space, year after year. The museum is definitely a blast from the past; a blast from the 1950’s. I always felt like I was going on a time machine back to my childhood. Most of the non-dinosaur exhibits are the same ones that were set-up in the 1950's and 60's when the museum first opened. Many of the newer displays have grammatical errors and appeared to be thrown together in haste. I understand it takes man power and time to develop and build new displays, however, I feel that given the amount of time that the current museum director has been at his post, more could have been done to revitalize the museum. Many small university museums (e.g., think of a university museum in New York State) have undertaken some very incredible developments in the past twenty years or so and the University of Wyoming Geological Museum is not part of them. I do not feel all the blame can be placed upon the museum’s director, because the Geology Department, the college, the university, and the state allowed the museum to remain in its poor condition. Even with all this said I do not feel it is right for the university to close the museum. The museum is a great place to learn about the vertebrate paleontology of Wyoming and has been a popular local tourist attraction for many years. I just hope that the university will reconsider closing it and maybe even try to improve this small museum, which they have helped place in its current condition. If the university wants to close this museum, then why not close the universities Art Museum and the Anthropology Museum, which are about the same quality and probably even do less to educate the public than the Geology Museum (although the Art Museum looks a bit nicer and is maintained). Closing all of them would really help reduce costs to the tax payer and the student. Anyways, why does Wyoming need a state geological museum; it is not like most of the states revenue comes from natural resources (e.g., coal, oil, gas).

posted on Tue, 06/09/2009 - 8:54pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The museum will re-open thanks to private funding.

posted on Sun, 07/19/2009 - 2:40pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Thanks for the info, Gene.

posted on Sun, 07/19/2009 - 4:57pm
Emma's picture
Emma says:

I believe this museum should stay opened. It is a powerful and wonderful learning tool. I came from Florida and I wished I had brought my son with me. I know he would have loved it.

posted on Sun, 07/19/2009 - 5:24pm
Brandon McStaffel's picture
Brandon McStaffel says:

This is ridicules. The very LAST thing we need to be doing right now is tearing down museums. History protects us from duplicating mistakes. Something we are in sore need of considering the current state of affairs. There must be better ways to adjust a budget than this. Perhaps a little less money for sports. Priorities are so out of wack :(

--
Apex Professionals llc

posted on Wed, 07/29/2009 - 10:33am
Kathy McCue's picture
Kathy McCue says:

Closing the museum is a tradegy and should be revisited. There is precious little history preserved for
future generations, and the museum should be improved upon to draw students into the world
of paleontology instead of allowing this treasure to
become a fossil lost to time.

posted on Wed, 09/16/2009 - 3:30pm
Babapandey's picture
Babapandey says:

Lets try to support it. There must be some solution. Baba

posted on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 1:21pm
Jefferson's picture
Jefferson says:

If it's not too late, a local fund raising could save this establishment.

posted on Mon, 04/05/2010 - 2:58pm
Kiity's picture
Kiity says:

Moreover, the the UW Geology Museum Director encourages and works with interested local students to develop innovative museum displays (many of which are done entirely through UNPAID volunteer work).
This museum has and continues to play a very important role in inspiring, encouraging and enabling young geoscientists---our future.

posted on Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:45am
Scott Allerdice's picture
Scott Allerdice says:

Wyoming government should something for it to save it from closing and those who are regular visitor must protect it from closing for the sake of their future.

posted on Thu, 01/20/2011 - 2:01am
santosh's picture
santosh says:

ewey Blanton, a spokesman for the American Association of Museums in Washington, DC, said the other museums of Natural History with budget problems in recent times, including the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, which is reducing its hours of operation, the Natural History Museum of San Diego, which has cut staff pay 10 percent, and the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, which was cut so his schedule and staff.

posted on Sun, 06/19/2011 - 3:08am
santosh's picture
santosh says:

I think closing is not a solution...

posted on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 1:15am

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