The Quarry Visitor Center

The original Quarry Visitor Center circa 1986
The original Quarry Visitor Center circa 1986

On September 22, 1956, the engineering firm Dames and Moore of Salt Lake City evaluated the stability of the bedrock that the foundation of the quarry museum would be built on, with the conclusion that there were no foreseeable foundation problems (Lombard, 1956). The building was discovered later to be anchored into a layer containing a substantial concentration of bentonitic clay, which due to its swelling interactions with water, created worsening foundation integrity problems that resulted in the building being condemned in 2006. Read more about it on The Closing of the Quarry Visitor Center.

The construction of the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument was part of a program titled “Mission 66”, enacted by National Park Service Director Conrad L. Wirth for the purpose of replacing outdated buildings with modern architecture with greater potential for longevity by 1966.  The National Park Service had been fiscally neglected by the federal government since the cessation of World War II, and many facilities were in dire need of replacement or renovation due to an increasing number of visitors. Dinosaur National Monument hired the services of the architectural firm Anshen and Allen of San Francisco, California. The National Park service had preliminary plans for a Quarry Visitor Center which entailed a visitor center with no windows, and the quarry wall under the illumination by artificial light. The first sketches of the quarry visitor center depicted by the architectural firm shifted the view held by the Division of Interpretation, and National Park Service supervisors began to support the idea of an exhibit that allowed visitors to see how the quarry fit into the landscape (Allaback, 2000).

After much bureaucratic deliberation and planning, the quarry visitor center was approved for construction. A contract was negotiated between the National Park Service and the R.K. McCullogh Construction Company of Salt Lake City for $309,000 ($2.6 million in 2015), to begin construction of the quarry visitor center on May 1, 1957.

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Finally, in 1958, the permanent Quarry Visitor Center was completed. At this time the process of exposing fossils in relief for the function of an in situ exhibit began. This transition opened a new chapter for Dinosaur National Monument, the creation of the first in situ exhibit in the world.

The in situ exhibit became a reality because of the hard work of dedicated museum technicians. Frank McKnight, Jim Adams, and Floyd “Tobe” Wilkins spent years diligently removing the matrix away from the bone. Adams and Wilkins, despite having no formal education in paleontology, were dedicated students to the art of fossil preparation. The wall of bones as an idea for an exhibit had emerged since the quarry’s inception, but the hard work of museum technicians made it possible.

Reliefing work at the quarry would continue until the 1990’s, when the management of the quarry shifted from exposing the maximum number of bones in relief, to preserving the stratigraphic and sedimentological data provided by the quarry wall.

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Now that excavations and fossil preparation has ceased, the Carnegie Quarry enters a new phase of its history. The goal is now to preserve this national treasure for generations to come.

As an open science, open source initiative, all fossil data and many of the records and images on this website are licensed in the public domain. However, not everything has the same license, so please check for license information in the caption or metadata before use. Dinosaur National Monument mural artwork, including the full-color illustrations of dinosaurs and other animals, is owned by the National Park Service and may be used freely for non-commercial purposes with the credit: "NPS Artwork by Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger."

For fossil fans who code or design, there are also a number of ways to be a part of the Digital Quarry Project. To contribute, visit our GitHub project page.