The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is 10 years in the making and we are now happy to announce that we're breaking ground in April! These are exciting times but we still need your help - a further $7 million is needed to finish the project.
The building is designed, the land is secured, the tendering documents are prepared, and we are currently teaching ten different education programs in area schools. We even have celebrity endorsement. Dan Aykroyd and his family are our International Ambassadors and Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler came out last year to help with our big annual fundraiser. Patricia Cornwell, America’s best-selling crime writer’s latest Scarpetta-series book was inspired by her visit to our site last year, calling it The Bonebed.
(Architect's rendering of the museum's Dinosaur Gallery)
Financially, we’ve raised a big chunk of cash: over $20 million of $30 million. We're breaking ground in April and the museum, if all goes well, will host its Grand Opening in June 2014. We still need a bit of help on the way, though. Beyond funding that is presently underway or being confirmed, we still need $7 million more to finish the project. This is where you come in.
But before we get carried away with enthusiasm, let’s back up and explain. There’s no denying dinosaurs are fascinating, the stuff of mythical creatures – only real. We’re lucky – in northern Alberta there are dinosaur fossils everywhere. Palaeontologists have already excavated more than their store rooms can hold.
With such a treasure trove of ancient riches here, we want to build a world-class museum to bring these fossils ‘to life’ as it were. The effort has been underway for 10 years now and for the last two a full-time paid staff of five people has been dedicated to making the museum a reality.
(Crew of palaeontologists and visiting celebrities - that's Matthew Gray Gubler in the brown hat - on the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed.)
And we have a plan! It’s a good one. The facility will be called the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, after Canada’s most prolific and popular palaeontologist. It will be 41,000 square feet of world-class technology combined with some of the oldest, most interesting stuff around – fossils dating as far back as 120 million years.
(Architect's drawing of the finished museum building.)
The facility is designed to be a LEED-certified (this means eco-friendly) educational and research centre in the heart of the Peace Country in northwest Alberta, Canada. Its unique shape will be visible from the highway, a silhouette inspired by a dinosaur’s body. Designed by Toronto-based Teeple Architects, the museum will feature extensive gallery spaces, two SMART-technology classrooms, a 64-seat theatre, research and collections areas, a restaurant, gift shop, and tourist services on a three-level design. More details on its exceptionally cool exhibits come at the end of this profile.
(Blueprint graphic of the museum's interior. Courtesy Beauchamp Creative)
As you can see, a lot has already been done. So what do we need? Dollars, plain and simple. We’re looking for the remaining funds needed to go straight into the capital program. This is the money that will pay for the lumber, nails, engineers and carpenters that will make this museum rise up from the ground.
This area has been described as a ‘vertitable gold mine’ by palaeontologists. It all began in 1974 when a young schoolteacher stumbled upon fossilized dinosaur bones. It was a clue that led to the discovery of the world’s densest horned dinosaur bonebed – a jumble of literally thousands of bones, belonging to a new species of dinosaur, Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai. Hundreds of animals died at once, for reasons scientists are still trying to work out. A second horned dinosaur bonebed was discovered in the 1980s.
(Palaeontologists from the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology excavating the bonebed in 1989.)
Interest has ramped up in the past few years as the area becomes better known internationally as a place of massive palaeontological potential. Scientists from Italy, Trinidad and Spain have come to this area to excavate in the past two years, as have others from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the University of Alberta and the Royal Ontario Museum.
(Palaeontologist Dr. Phil Bell, project palaeontologist, applies glue to fossilized Hadrosaur skin found on the Red Willow River last year.)
In the cumulative period of just a few weeks spread out over the past two field seasons, palaeontologists have discovered two skeletons of duck-billed hadrosaurs, replete with impressions of their scaly hide; nearly a dozen footprints from giant tyrannosaurs, hadrosaurs, and ankylosaurs; and a possible new species of small carnivorous dinosaur not unlike the famed Velociraptor from “Jurassic Park”. Even the delicate fossils of plants and tiny insects have been discovered, some of which are new to science. The discoveries will only increase in the coming years. It’s going to be a wonderful thing to be able to bring all the excitement together in one stellar facility.
(Education Manager Laura Beauchamp teaches 'Geology Rocks' to a Grade Three class.)
Education is at the core of this project. We want to bring the science alive for everyone. Our Education Department has created ten delightful, creative and interactive curriculum-connected programs. For Kindergarten to Grade 12, these programs were carefully designed to be portable to school classrooms. They’ll take up residence in the museum once it opens. They’ve proved very popular – over 3,000 students have now participated in a school program.
We also offer entertaining, educational public programs in the summertime, provided by our two summer students. They’re a lot of fun, whether you take a tour to the Pipestone Creek Pachyrhinosaurus bonebed, check out a fossil-handling demonstration or get involved in an audience-participation theatrical performance that changes every year. Over 7,000 people from around the world took part in these over the past two summers. All of these activities will become part of the museum’s educational offerings when it opens its doors.
(Summer student Jewels Goff leads a group on an adventure tour to the dinosaur bonebed.)
With a little help, we'll be opening those doors in 2014. The project is so close to success. It has been underway for 10 years with the last two including the efforts of a five-person project team working full-time to make it happen. With our benevolent army of volunteers, sponsors and helpers, a lot has been accomplished. We have incredible support, all the way to the Grade Four class at Wembley Elementary School, who collected pop cans for an entire year to donate their $1,000 proceeds to the project.
(The Wembley Grade Fours and their generous donation.)
It’s been a lot of work, but it has paid off: it’s a story of great progress. So why not join in? This is going to be a facility for everyone so we figured, why not open it up to everyone to help get it going? Any donation would be hugely appreciated. We will welcome you with open arms to check out ‘your’ museum once the doors open.
(Dan Aykroyd at our 2011 fundraising gala, 'The Aykroyd Family and Friends Dinosaur Ball.)
With any donation you’ll be helping create an incredibly cool facility in a place that has more industry than cultural spaces. We want to open up a whole new world in Grande Prairie – a world of scientific intrigue, educational adventure and a glimpse into a past long, long gone.
This museum will have a massive impact on this area. Not only will it be a place for kids (and adults) to get excited and inspired about science, to meet palaeontologists from around the world, and have their minds generally boggled, but it will help diversify the economy and open up the tourism industry here.
The land is secured – a beautiful 10-acre piece – the museum blueprints are complete, exhibit design is well underway and as mentioned, palaeontologists have discovered a cache of exciting new specimens here during the recent summertime field seasons.
(Site map of the museum's location. Courtesy Beauchamp Creative)
We’re already getting visitors from around the globe coming to check out the bonebed tours we offer to the mass grave site of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai near Grande Prairie. There is a lot of interest in this, world-wide. We’ve been featured in the Globe and Mail, National Post, TIME Magazine online, Good Morning America and ABC TV’s Born to Explore, to name just a few. The Royal Canadian Mint launched its first glow-in-the-dark coin in May – and guess what it featured? The Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, the first dinosaur ever discovered in these parts. Its discoverer, one of our present board members, was even featured on The Colbert Report.
(Images of the glow-in-the-dark dino coin. Courtesy the Royal Canadian Mint.)
As you can see, excitement and momentum are abounding with this project. There’s no time to waste. Let’s get it built! We have tons of information on our website, www.curriemuseum.ca as well as our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or why not give us a call? We’re at (780) 532-2362 in Grande Prairie, Alberta Canada.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you’re not able to contribute funds you can still help. ‘Like’ us on Facebook, mention us on Twitter (@curriemuseum) and generally make noise on our behalf. We’d really appreciate it.
A Little Bit More About Us: The Museum Exhibits
We don’t want to overload you with information but we’re extremely proud of the exhibits designed for this museum. We’ll give you just a brief snapshot of some of our favorites.
Dinosaur Gallery: Fossils everywhere! From towering skeletons overhead to smaller ones underfoot, this Gallery is our showstopper. It features nearly 7,000 sq. feet of an assemblage of intriguing beasts, from Alberta’s newest species never before showcased in a museum to a pantheon of dinosaurs discovered in the Peace Region.
Oil and Gas Wing: Nearly 3,000 sq. feet of interactive discovery – what is the connection between dinosaurs and the industry that powers our world? Kids will love the Discovery Wall, where they pretend to be a drilling rig seeking repositories of oil and natural gas.
Education Centre: Learning concentrates here. Two SMART-technology classrooms and a 64-person theatre will host our hugely popular curriculum-based K-12 programs, lectures by resident and visiting scientists, live performances and special screenings.
Palaeontology Laboratory and Research Centre: A collections area and laboratory where resident and visiting scientists will conduct cutting-edge research. A glass viewing platform gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of all the action.
Special Exhibit Gallery: This gallery will host a wide and ever-changing range of displays and travelling exhibits to be showcased, including art and artifacts.
The Bonebed: Try out your palaeontological skills! The bonebed is a re-creation of a local dig site containing thousands of jumbled bones. Conduct your own prehistoric CSI investigations to crack the case of why hundreds of animals died in one spot.
Time Spiral Staircase: As visitors spiral their way upward they will travel from the prehistoric to the present. Information-graphics representing the different time periods are coupled with actual fossils inserted in the walls of the stairway to illustrate the dazzling diversity of life through time.
Interactive Dig Wall: Visitors put on their palaeo hats at this display. It couldn’t be more hands-on. This re-creation of a dig site allows visitors to use provided tools to slowly excavate replica bones, which they can remove.
Discovery Tent: This display is a re-creation of a palaeontologist field tent and camp set-up. The tent will be equipped with palaeontological tools and equipment, as well as costumes and other gear for play ‘excavation.’
A few Administrative Notes
For those claiming t-shirts or polo shirts as their prizes, we ask that you please include your shirt size in a 'comment.' We are only able to provide Government of Canada tax receipts and to Canadian Citizens only your donation minus the value of the perk you received. We’re sorry, we’d love to give them to everyone but we’ve got to stick to the rules. Our Canadian Charitable Organization number is: 84570 0202 RR00001. For all international donors, the European shipping and handling requests will stand. Thank you all so very much.
A big thanks to both our present sponsors and all those to come! Thank you!