Sunday, January 9, 2011


In my Dec 21, 2010 post I looked at how the idea of a museum and in-place exhibit originated with Douglass very early on in the excavation at the Carnegie Quarry. Here, and over a few subsequent posts, I'll follow up on that and trace the trials and tribulations of bringing his idea to fruition.

Earl Douglass
 Earl Douglass was an indefatigable advocate for the Carnegie Quarry, its excavation, and it’s potential as a totally new kind of museum. Douglass was responsible for the great public interest and support for the Monument in the years following its discovery. He taught university classes in the Vernal area, wrote articles, gave interviews, spoke to visitors, students, fellow scientists, politicians, local civil and business groups and was always looking for an opportunity to publicize the work going on at the Quarry. He did all this while overseeing nearly 15 years of excavations at the site.

Although Dinosaur became a Monument in 1915, excavations continued for years. So while bones were being collected and shipped to Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Salt Lake City individuals were, at the same time, thinking about establishing an in-situ exhibit.

George Otis Smith
The US Geological Survey, supported by the Smithsonian Institution, sends one of their geologists, Dr. Deane Winchester, to the Quarry to access its potential for an in-situ exhibit. He finds that the site has real promise and George Otis Smith, (Director of the USGS) writes to Steven Mather, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, that “There is, therefore, reason for the perpetuation of the Dinosaur Monument as a fact rather than as a promise.”

Douglass writes an article, “The Dinosaur Quarry --- A Prophecy” for the Vernal express that painted a picture of what a future Monument visitor will see, including large hotels on adjacent hills, agricultural fields, railroad terminals, and airplanes, airships, and airstrips.

William J. Holland

Douglass inspires the Vernal Commercial Club to approach the NPS about development and the NPS contacts William J. Holland, the Director of the Carnegie, with some unexpected surprises (more about that in a later post).

Hubert Work

After looking at photos of the Quarry, Hubert Work, the Secretary of the Interior, becomes interested in what he describes will be “one of the most important scientific exhibits in the country” and he encourages the Smithsonian to consider getting involved in the Monument Museum.

Reed Smoot

The Vernal Chamber of Commerce develops a $5,000 budget to build the Visitor Center and expose fossils. Drs. Pack and Thomas of the University of Utah approach Utah Senator Smoot to present a bill in Congress for Museum Development. Representative Donald B. Colton approaches Steven Mather, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and also volunteers to present a bill in Congress. Colton ominously wrote “If it is your plan to now abandon it completely, I am sure private citizens will be glad to acquire title to this ground if possible and preserve it as a permanent place to be visited by sightseers….”

Although the NPS is interested in developing the quarry, the agency is perennially short of funds. Acting NPS Director Cammerer writes back to Colton “The question of vandalism and the necessity of funds for protection is not as acute in the Dinosaur as it is in some twenty other national monuments because there is nothing to destroy…”

Representative Colton introduces Bill 9064 appropriating $5000 for the protection and development of the Quarry Museum. Cammerer stalls, arguing that more work should first be done to determine if there is an skeleton still in the ground adequate for in-situ exposure. The Bill goes forward and is presented to the Bureau of the Budget in June. The Budget Director deems that “the proposed legislation would be in conflict with the President’s financial program.”

As a result of the conflict surrounding the bill, it is not passed by Congress.

Arno Cammerer

Dr. Pack of the University of Utah suggests to the NPS that no future excavation permits be issued until a decision was reached about how to develop the quarry. NPS Director Cammerer supports this proposal.

Donald Colton

Congressman Colton introduces another bill for Quarry development, differing from his previous one only in that now $100,000, rather than $5,000, is appropriated. The bill is referred to the Committee on Public lands.

Douglass writes to Mather again urging the building of a museum at the site. John Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. writes to Mather “…This Monument could be made so much more important than any exhibit in a museum that it would rank as an outstanding educational opportunity ….” Merriam also assures Mather that the in-situ museum will be supported by scientific societies such as the Geological Society of America, National Academy of Science, and the National Research Council.

William Diller Matthew, a prominent paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, writes to Merriam in support of the project. Matthew encourages Douglass to develop detailed diagrams, maps, sketches, and cost estimates that, along with support from  Merriam and the University of Utah, will make an appealing proposal for a joint state (Utah) and national project.

Colton continues to push his bill, garners support from local groups, and corresponds with NPS officials in Washington, D.C.

William D. Matthew
Cammerer admits that that the NPS has never had a representative go to Dinosaur to study the feasibility of the museum idea, even though it has been an NPS unit for a dozen years. He hopes that William D. Matthew of the American Museum might be able to have someone visit and do the assessment in 1928 and based on that study the NPS could approach Congress with detailed plans and costs for development. However, Congress did not act on Colton’s already proposed legislation.

So after a dozen years of activities, the in-situ exhibit at Dinosaur still remained a dream. However, the concept had many supporters in federal and state government, the scientific community, major natural history museums, and citizens of the state of Utah. However, the Great Depression arrived and other solutions needed to be considered. Luckily Dr. A.C. Boyle would soon be at the Monument.

All passages in quotation marks in this blog are from Beidelman 1956.

A Note on Sources

Much of this blog is based on R.G. Beidelman’s report Administrative History, Dinosaur National Monument. This fascinating report is the best summary of the history of the Carnegie Quarry between its discovery and 1956, much of which has never been published. It contains abundant quotes from correspondence, newspapers, etc. and provides complete citations to where these documents can be found in the National Archives. Although it is in an unpublished internal report, it is available on-line from the National Park Service at It is an interesting read.


Beidelman, R.G. 1956. Administrative History, Dinosaur National Monument. Unpaginated. (


Wikipedia: George Otis Smith, Hubert Work, Reed Smoot, Arno Cammerer, Donald Colton, 
 UCMP Berkeley: William D. Matthew
 Carnegie Museum:  Earl Douglass, William J. Holland

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