On Tuesday, June 30 at 5:00 p.m. the University of Wyoming Geological Museum closed its doors. It was a sad moment for all of us who care about the museum. The museum was closed as a result of budget cuts announced by UW President Tom Buchanan on June 4, 2009 that included the museum’s small operating budget and the salary of the long-time director Brent Breithaupt and his part-time office assistant Jennifer Durer.
The outpouring of support for the museum from both the paleontological community and the general public has been overwhelming. Through on-line and paper petitions, Facebook and MySpace groups, blogs and emails, and newspaper articles and letter writing efforts, the President and Provost of the University of Wyoming as well as the Board of Trustees and the Governor are now very aware of the importance of the museum to the people and its role in research and in the education of everyone from children to college students to seniors.
Although the UW administration has not reversed the decision to close the museum, the overwhelming support shown for the museum has allowed the Department of Geology and Geophysics to begin to work with the administration to move towards new ideas for the permanent funding of the museum. These ideas include the establishment of an endowment that would fund the museum operations, including the salary of a director/curator. Obviously setting up and funding an endowment will take time and of course money, but we are hopeful that through these efforts the museum will re-open as a stronger and even more vital part of the Wyoming community.
We want to thank everyone for their support and hard work in helping us reach this point – it could not have been done without you! We will be continuing to gather support through a citizens group, the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum. You can find out more about this group at: http://www.keeplaramiedinos.blogspot.com. There are links to the other on-line support activities here, and we will keep the blog updated with the latest news about our efforts.
Now is the time to keep our efforts visible – we don’t want to lose this great momentum we’ve gained. If you signed the petition, now write a letter. If you’ve written letters, write more. And keep letting people know about our situation and how important the museum has been to you!
Again, thanks so much for all your support!
We are dismayed to report that the University of Wyoming has decided to include the Geological Museum in the programs to be cut as a result of a decrease in funding by the state. 45 people across the University lost their jobs, including the Director of the Geological Museum Brent Breithaupt and the part-time museum secretary. This decision was made by the University administration, and in no way reflects a lack of support from the Department of Geology and Geophysics.
The museum itself and the paleontological research program that has been built around it is an amazing educational resource that is utilized daily by everyone from university professors to preschool children. The museum was founded 122 years ago, shortly after the university itself was founded. One of the first curators was William Harlow Reed, one of the railroad workers who discovered the first dinosaurian fossils at Como Bluff, WY. The current museum building was built under the direction of Samuel H. “Doc” Knight, for whom the S. H. Knight Geology building is named. The museum’s physical connection to the Geology Building allows it to be routinely incorporated into laboratory and classroom activities. In addition, public and private school classes frequently tour the museum as part of their curricula, making this museum a significant educational resource not just for Laramie but for the entire state of Wyoming.
The museum houses many fossils of interest to children and researchers alike, including one of the only mounted skeletons of Apatosaurus (“Brontosaurus”) which recently was re-mounted with its tail in the air. Visitors from across the country come to see “Big Al” the Allosaurus as well as numerous other exhibits. Several holotype specimens are on display and have been available for research. Other specimens currently under study include the Columbian mammoth (ancient DNA) and microvertebrates from the Mesaverde Fm. A working preparation station has been integrated into the museum, and visitors can ask questions while watching fossils being prepared.
We want to stress that the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates is separate from the museum, and is not affected by these cuts at this time.
The Geological Museum will close its doors to the general public on July 1, 2009.
Please feel free to write the following people regarding these job cuts and the loss of the museum to the public:
Board of Trustees (http://uwadmnweb.uwyo.edu/trustees/info.aspp=272):
Mr. Chuck Brown, President of the UW Board of Trustees
P.O. Box 789
1554 Cottonwood Ave.
Wheatland, WY 82201
Jim D. Neiman
P.O. Box 218
Hulett, WY 82720
Warren A. Lauer
Laramie, WY 82070
President, Mountain Benefit Associates, LLC
809 S. Railway Avenue
P.O. Box 728
40 South Main
Sheridan, WY 82801
P.O. Box 340
Big Piney, WY 83113
Taylor H. Haynes, M.D.
P.O. Box 904
Cheyenne, WY 82003
David F. "Dave" Palmerlee
11 North Main Street
Buffalo, WY 82834
Bradford S. Mead
Mead & Mead
185 E. Hansen
P.O. Box 1809
Jackson, WY 83001
152 N. Durbin Street, Suite 120
Casper, Wyoming 82601
P.O. Box 1111
Fort Washakie, WY 82514
Howard Willson, M.D.
P.O. Box 710
Thermopolis, WY 82443
1000 E. University Avenue, Dept. 3434
Laramie, WY 82071
Governor of Wyoming
State Capitol Building, Room 124
200 W. 24th Street
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Superintendent of Public Instruction
2300 Capitol Avenue
Hathaway Building, 2nd Floor
Cheyenne, WY 82002-0050
Associated Students of the
University of Wyoming
1000 East University Avenue
Laramie, WY 82071
Citizens for the preservation of the University of Wyoming Geological Museum
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