Montana is a big and not very populous state, but it has a first-class museum in Bozeman that’s well worth seeing. The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) was founded in 1957 and is affiliated with Montana State University and also the prestigious Smithsonian Institution. The museum’s collections have grown to include 300,000 items of which only a minority can be displayed.
The focus of the museum is the rich dinosaur history of the region, and their collection is world-class. MOR features the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the United States, mostly housed in a wing known as the Siebel Dinosaur Complex.
The pride of the collection are the ever-popular Tyrannosaurus Rex, of which the museum has 13 specimens. The Museum houses the largest T. Rex skull ever discovered, measuring over five feet, which is show below:
There’s a T Rex leg bone with attached soft tissues, and a real entire (not cast) Montana T Rex skeleton on display that is most impressive. These bones are heavy and need to be supported by a steel scaffolding incorporated into the remains. Montana T Rex is one of the two most intact T Rex specimens known to exist.
I never realized before this visit that T Rex had a set of ribs protecting the underside of their bellies, not just their lungs — a nice defensive tool.
There’s a large and very diverse collection of fossils available for view, most very nicely displayed. Included is the best collection of triceratops fossils I’ve ever seen. Among the exhibits, MOR has several fossilized nests of dinosaur eggs, one of the oldest flying (bird) fossils ever found, and a specimen showing ossified tendons and ligaments along a duckbill dinosaur spine. The collection of fossils is extensive and far to numerous to document in this blog.
The museum is involved in active paleontological research and fossil preparation, and have the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Lab wherein you can watch specimens being carefully dissected for display. The museum is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail and is the state’s official repository for fossils.
Beyond the paleontology, MOR has an interesting collection focusing on the geography and natural history of the area — a state that includes such beautiful sights as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Other exhibits include nice exhibits on the history of Native life on the Plains and near the Rocky Mountains.
A large exhibit hall focuses on the development of this frontier state, including fur traders, gold seekers, and white settlers. The Schlecten photography collection provides interesting background illustrations of life in Montana during the twentieth century.
The Museum offers displays well beyond these, including the Taylor Planetarium, a 40 ft domed theater near which you find some interesting space-related items. Rotating exhibits are part of the MOR offering. When we visited there was a display of children’s books and their history, including a nice sampling of Dr. Seuss books (no photograph allowed in that exhibit, sorry). Past rotating exhibits have included television and movie costumes, and one of King Tut related items.
In summary, a terrific and most interesting museum that’s well worth at least a half day of your time when visiting Bozeman. But I love natural history museums, so for me this was a visit I really enjoyed.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)