FARMINGTON – A bit of prehistoric history has found a permanent home at The Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology at San Juan College in Farmington.
The dinosaur display features six replicas of the extinct creatures that once roamed Earth.
The idea for the dinosaur exhibit developed during conversations between the Dugan family and San Juan College Foundation Executive Director Gayle Dean. Since the founding of the museum in 2015, large exhibits have been part of the long-term plan. While the museum already had several fossils in its collection, the cost and difficulty of displaying full-sized, authentic fossils made replicas a more realistic option.
The famous “Sue” Tyrannosaurus rex in Chicago’s Field Museum cost $9 million and is estimated to weigh between 18,519 and 30,865 pounds. The $89,000 display installed at The Sherman Dugan Museum includes six replicas of dinosaurs that once roamed the San Juan Basin.
The Dugan family has a long history of supporting education and San Juan College. The dinosaur exhibit follows donations from the Dugan family for Mary’s Kitchen, the Veterans Center and The Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology. The dinosaur exhibit furthers the family’s efforts to promote the understanding and study of natural history of the San Juan Basin.
The exhibit is also a way to honor the late Tom Dugan, who died in 2017. Thomas Allen Dugan was the owner and founder of Dugan Production Corp., one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the San Juan Basin, and was also known for his philanthropy.
While the majority of the funding for the display came from the Dugan family, additional money was raised by the Friends of Sherman Dugan group. The San Juan College Foundation facilitated the purchase of the replicas from Triebold Paleontology Inc. None of the funding came from San Juan College directly.
Triebold Paleontology scans original fossils, creates three-dimensional models from the scans, 3D prints master prototypes and then molds high-quality replicas.
The packaged purchased for the museum includes an Albertosaurus sarcophagus, a smaller and earlier relative of a Tyrannosaurus rex; a juvenile Agujaceratops sp., a relative of Pentaceratops, which have been found in the Bisti Badlands; male and female examples of Nyctosaurus gracilis, a Late Cretaceous flying pterosaur; a Didelphodon vorax, an early carnivorous mammal; and a Bambiraptor feinbergi, an intelligent but small predator with razor-sharp teeth.
The replicas were installed in a 1,200-square-foot space on a platform designed by decorator Susan Neely and curated by the museum’s curators Donna Ware and Jeff Self.
Owner of Triebold Paleontology, Michael Triebold, visited the museum to oversee the assembly and installation of the replicas. While there, Triebold also scanned the museum’s current fossils for future molds, including the Brontothere skull named “Tom.” Using the scans, Triebold was able to replace Tom’s missing tooth with a replicated piece.
Scans of other fossils, like “Mery,” an Oreodont named after Mery Dugan, will be added to Triebold Paleontology’s specimen collection. The San Juan College Foundation will receive residuals when other organizations purchase these replicas, and each replica sold will be accompanied by a plaque naming its original museum.
Dean estimates the museum hosts 8,000 to 10,000 visitors per year and expects those numbers to increase with the dinosaur exhibit. Dean said the museum is “an important tool for building curiosity and engaging community members of all ages.”
Volunteers show guests around the museum, answer questions about the exhibits and the augmented-reality sandbox, and learn to clean and preserve specimens in the fossil prep lab. Ware said the museum is working with the Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado to expand its mining exhibit, and more large exhibits may be added in the future.