Museums have come a long way in the past several years. While their very existence is for “the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that doesn’t mean they have to be the dry, boring storehouses full of stiff dioramas and creepy, moth-eaten, stuffed animal specimens they used to be. In fact, many museums these days have upped their game—and their appeal—to attract a 21st century public hungry for dynamic, interactive entertainment and education.
That being said, sometimes a museum can still be a great place to take the family to learn about the past and to see artifacts from years gone by, even without all the bells and whistles we seem to crave these days (and without those creepy, moth-eaten stuffed animal specimens).
The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) is a perfect example of the latter, and it’s one of my favorite museums in the world, which is why I’m featuring it as the inaugural article in DADSCI’s Field Trip series. MOR is small, it’s quiet, but it’s packed full of great exhibits. And despite it’s size and rather out-of-the-way location in beautiful Bozeman, Montana, it’s got quite a reputation in the scientific community. Not only does MOR house one of the largest dinosaur fossil collections in the world, it also happens to be where Dr. Jack Horner has hung his professional hat his entire career.
“Who’s Dr. Jack Horner?” you might ask. The short answer is: one of the most famous paleontologists in the world. The slightly longer answer is: He’s the paleontologist who was the scientific advisor for all the Jurassic Park movies, and the guy who inspired the character Dr. Alan Grant in those same movies.
Things get even cooler, though, as you walk through MOR’s Siebel Dinosaur Complex, which displays everything from examples of fossilized dino nests (complete with fossilized eggs) to raptor claws. But the real eye-opener is toward the end of the tour, when you walk into a giant hall displaying the most complete collection of Triceratops skulls in the world, and the largest T. rex skeleton in the world. (MOR also houses the largest number of T. rex skeletons—13—anywhere in the world.)
More than almost any other museum on the planet, MOR is the go-to destination for your younger dinophiles.
But wait, there’s more! MOR does dinos, but it offers other, just as cool, exhibits too.
The Lawrence Gardner Western Gallery showcases Native American weapons, stone implements, clothing, and art, as well as an impressive collection of firearms, wagons, vehicles, and other artifacts from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century Montana. There’s even a full-sized tar paper shack that early homesteaders could order out of a catalog for easy construction on the frontier, as well as an example of a “balloon construction” house which, just like the tar paper shack, was a means of constructing homes using fewer materials, and that required less technical expertise to build.
MOR is also home to the Taylor Planetarium, one of only a small number of planetariums in the world that offer Digistar 5 technology for their audiences. (Before you go in to catch one of their shows, make sure you check out some of the unique, space-related artifacts displayed right outside the door.)
They also have a Children’s Discovery Center, a Living History Farm (with an heirloom garden and blacksmith shop that both celebrate Montana’s homesteading era), as well as halls with rotating exhibitions.
If you make it to southwest Montana with the kids in tow, be sure put the Museum of the Rockies on your short list of things to do.