Wednesday, March 2, 2011


In the early 1950s, when the NPS began to once AGAIN consider building a visitor center over the Carnegie Quarry, a question arose as to whether or not there were dinosaur bones in the quarry. This was a natural question given that 700,000 ponds of dinosaur bones had actually been shipped to museums. Abundant bones had been collected from rock above, to the west, and to the east of the unexcavated part of the quarry, so it was likely that there were still bones in the unexcavated portion.  However, it was prudent to ask the question.

The east end of the Carnegie Quarry sandstone before the Tin Shed was built.

The framework for the Tin Shed.
 So, starting in the early 1950s, excavations were undertaken to assess the fossil content of the sandstone layer. In 1951 the NPS approved plans for a temporary, more utilitarian structure --- a tall, wood and corrugated sheet metal structure was built over part of the east end of the quarry sandstone.  The north wall of the building was the quarry sandstone, just as originally envisioned by Douglass. Windows on the south side let in ambient light and the entrance was on the east wall.

Known in the Monument as the Tin Shed, this building enclosed the quarry, and it served as a work shop and preparation area, with some excavations going on within it during the winter months. A limited number of fossils were exposed in-situ inside the facility. Visitors could go inside and see a simplified version of Douglass’s dream. Even at this preliminary stage, the building was the first place in the world that one could go and see fossil bones permanently exposed in-situ.

The Tin Shed completed over the east end of the quarry sandstone.
The Tin Shed viewed from the west.  Notice the fencing to keep the visitors a safe distance from the excavations going on outside the building.

Test excavations were done in the quarry sandstone adjacent to the building and a number of scientifically important specimens were found. Since visitors could come to the quarry during the Tin Shed days, a fence kept them from getting too close to the work and fossils. But visitors could at least watch excavations underway. The Tin Shed did not contain much, if anything, in the way of traditional museum exhibits. Those were still in the museum built during A.C. Boyles’s time at Dinosaur a few hundred yards down the hill. Both the Tin Shed and the Museum would be demolished or moved when the permanent Quarry Visitor Center was built and opened in 1958. Well, permanent at least until it was condemned in 2006 and demolished in 2010.

Photo: NPS

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