It is ironic that Earl Douglass, the paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum who found the quarry that became Dinosaur National Monument, did not, before that discovery, have much research interest in dinosaurs. His research efforts focused on Tertiary fossil mammals. In fact, he was collecting just such mammal fossils in the Uintah Basin in 1909 when the Carnegie asked him to head to the area around Jensen Utah to follow up on reports of dinosaur bones. I will speak more about Earl in future posts. Here I want to talk about his vision about the Carnegie Quarry and the American public because that ultimately led to the current construction project.
In his Oct 29, 1915 diary entry, Earl wrote:
“It is a combination of fortunate circumstances that they [the dinosaur bones in the Carnegie Quarry] have been buried, preserved, and again unveiled to us. How appropriate that they, or part of them, be exposed in relief as they were buried, to show the tragedy of their death and to reveal something of their lives and surroundings. How appropriate to build a fair sized building over them to protect them, to have this a thing of substantial beauty modeled after nature, to have it large enough to contain related fossils and other curiosities, geological sections, explanatory descriptions, pictures, paintings to represent scenes in the age in which they lived, a library with books throwing light on the geology of the region; anything to attract in the right direction, to interest, to help to appreciate nature and her wonderful ways!”(1, page 378)
Earl’s vision was striking, for nothing like this had ever been proposed before. Sure, many dinosaur bones had been taken back to museums, prepared, and put on exhibit but no one had proposed bringing the museum to the bones and exhibiting them just as they were deposited millions of years ago. That was a powerful idea that captivated many who heard it.
|Oh Happy Days!|
Although Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915, bones continued to be excavated, collected, and shipped off through 1924 by the Carnegie Museum, the United States National Museum, and the University of Utah. After that the Depression, World War II, and the Korean Conflict put any development at the Monument on the back burner. Although the Quarry Visitor Center would not be built until 1957 – 1958, there were several earlier efforts to bring Douglass’s vision to reality. I will explore some of those now forgotten buildings and exhibits in upcoming posts.
(1) Douglass, G.E. 2009. Speak to the Earth and It Will Teach You: The Life and Times of Earl Douglass 1862-1931. http://www.booksurge.com 448 pp
Photos:Carnegie Museum of Natural History