Brigham Young University's Museum of Paleontology - Absolutely Stacked Dinosaur Museum

For my money, the Museum of Paleontology located in Provo, Utah, literally in the shadow of Brigham Young University's Cougar Stadium, offers the best dinosaur museum experience per square foot, and dollar spent, of any paleontology museum in the world!

Parking is ample and free.  The museum doesn't charge an official entry fee, rather they have a cool donation box with a suggested price.  A neat Dunkleosteus skull (a giant fish) greets visitors upon arrival, as does an exhibit on 'Dinosaur' Jim Jensen, the avid dinosaur collector that built the museum's collection to such an extent that, at one point in the mid-1990s, the unprepared jackets occupied one half of the space underneath the football stadium!  Today a tremendous credit is due to the BYU paleontologists who have prepared nearly every one of those jackets in the last few decades.  This industriousness led to the addition of a huge fossil storage facility that is attached to the side of the museum.  

After walking under Dunkleosteus a classic exhibit of Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus greets you.  Synapsids more closely related to mammals than dinosaurs, but often present in dinosaur toy sets to this day (much to my disappointment...), these two creatures possess amazing sails on their back, the purpose of which is unknown to this day.  

One of the most artistic dinosaur displays is to one's immediate left.  This "oval of life", with an Allosaurus chasing a large Camptosaurus, both beautifully mounted so they are forever in pursuit, is even more astounding when considering it was built before modern techniques of lightweight casts and modern armature technology.  It stands the test of time both as an artistic piece and as a great exhibit showing a likely real-life hunting scenario.  I never fail to smile when I see it. 

 

Allosaurus chasing Camptosaurus

 

The museum is small in square footage but every nook and cranny tells a story.  The famous Camarasaurus lentus from Dinosaur National Monument (specimen number CM 11338) is on display next to the original bones of an Apatosaurus, including a near 7' wide pelvis and 5' limb bones.  The jaw-dropping skulls of Allosaurus jimmadseni and Ceratosaurus are accompanied by the original bones of an enormous Allosaurus skull.  

Walk forward and glance right and, if you jump, well you are in good company, for gazing down upon you is the apex Jurassic predator Torvosaurus, and behind it, Utahraptor, the largest of the raptors, so large it would make mincemeat of the Jurassic Park Velociraptors!  These two skeletons are so near you can touch them (please don't!) and, being so close, convey the sheer size, and savagery, each of these animals possessed in life.  I love these mounts!

Somehow they mounted a sauropod, Moabosaurus, in the building!  Behind which is a full skeleton of Gastonia.  Dispersed throughout the room are exhibits containing original fossils telling stories about dinosaur pathologies, how paleontologists excavate animals via a cute juvenile Stegosaurus tail, plants of the Mesozoic (thanks to the world-class collection of the late Don Tidwell), and a view into one of the most active dinosaur prep labs in the world.

Just when you think there is no more room to display specimens a turn to the right reveals skulls of Tyrannosaurus rexTeratophoneusone of the largest Triceratops skulls on display, and a Monoclonius!  A gigantic Deinosuchus crocodile lurks in the corner, surveying these Cretaceous delicacies, hoping one gets too close to the water...  Mounted high on the wall is a giant Pteranodon.  Look closely to discover the Rhinorex mounted on a wall next to the door to the prep lab.  Skin impressions from this animal are on display underneath the Pteranodon, as is a clutch of 6 Cretaceous dinosaur eggs from Utah!  

Still not done with doling out goodness, another right turn leads to the mammal exhibits.  The skull and antlers of the largest deer ever discovered, Megaceros, a huge ground sloth skeleton, skulls comparing convergent evolution of large felid canines, slabs of exquisitely preserved fish, and the most impressive ammonite collection on display anywhere, Kevin Bylund's personal collection!  Kevin has spent decades finding ammonites who's beauty is rivaled only by their scientific value. 

I can't endorse this museum enough. I spent 2 hours on my first visit and only left because I had to make it to Yellowstone before dark.  It is small in square footage but mighty in content and beauty!

 

 

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