Dinosaur replica unveiled at Bollinger County museum

Saturday, March 15, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Three-year-old Andres Stacy looked at the newly unveiled replica of the Hypsibema missouriense Friday at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill, Mo.

MARBLE HILL, Mo. — Bollinger County's life-size dinosaur replica was greeted by a room full of community members eager to see it.

Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, was the guest speaker for the Friday afternoon event at the Bollinger County Natural History Museum.

"Everything you see here was accomplished by the local community," Jetton said, celebrating that the first permanent exhibit of Missouri's official dinosaur, the Hypsibema missouriense, had arrived in Bollinger County.

Jetton sponsored the bill in 2004 that gave the state dinosaur designation. He reminisced about the legislative process that ultimately passed the bill 147-4.

"The hardest thing was pronouncing Hypsibema missouriense on the House floor," he said.

Hypsibema missouriense is a hadrosaur or duck-billed dinosaur, believed to have been 30 feet long. Fossils of the dinosaur were found in Bollinger County in the 1940s.

Guy Darrough and his crew from Lost World Studios built the exhibit for the Bollinger County museum. It took them two years to complete, according to Eva Dunn, president of the museum board of directors.

Karry Felty used a cell phone to take a photograph of her son, Reece, 6, next to the Missouri Dinosaur replica Friday at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History.

Dunn said the dinosaur is thought to have displayed good mothering, as one of the only dinosaur species that stayed near its nest. That is why the new exhibit is displayed with a nest full of eggs, she said.

Darrough is also the museum's curator and co-founder, as well as a dinosaur artist. Because of his experience digging fossils all over the globe, he's able to make his replicas lifelike, leading a team of craftsmen to create the exhibits.

"The thing does look real," Jetton said. "I almost don't want to stand too close."

Darrough also directs the excavations at the Chronister dinosaur site in southern Missouri. The most recent find is a portion of the jaw from the Missouri dinosaur. Dunn said the new dinosaur is the only permanent exhibit right now of the Missouri dinosaur.

Dunn and Jetton said Friday they hoped the dig site might one day be part of a state park and opened to tourism.

"It would be an advantage to the state and the local community if the site could eventually be included in a state park," Jetton said. He said the owners of the property have continued to be open to excavation of the site and thought there may be future interest at the state level if the owners supported opening the area up to the state for tourism.

Although Jetton is in his last year in office, he said Shelley Keeney, who is campaigning to replace Jetton in the 156th District, might continue to rally state support for the Missouri Dinosaur site.

Keeney, who was at the museum event, said she would support Jetton's cause on the state level if the issue was highly supported by the Bollinger County community and the owners of the property.

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