History of the Quarry Exhibit Hall
The Quarry Exhibit Hall has a headline-grabbing history that stretches back more than 50 years. Built in 1957, it houses the 150-foot-long quarry strewn with more than 1,500 fossilized bones from Camarasaurus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and other dinosaurs.
The quarry provides one of the best windows onto what life was like 149 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the rivers and plains of the Late Jurassic. Within a few years of its construction, the building had gained renown for its modernist architecture and, with its pink butterfly roof and walls of windows, become an icon of Dinosaur National Monument.
Protect Fossils, Shelter Visitors
When measured by these criteria, the building performed admirably. The roof and walls protected the fossils from the elements. The second-floor viewing deck offered visitors expansive views of the quarry face. The glass walls flooded the rock face with natural light and, more importantly, allowed visitors to see the relationship between the enclosed quarry and the rock layers outside.
The Earth Moved: Expanding Soils
The Morrison Formation includes moisture-sensitive bentonitic shales whose volume can increase significantly as its moisture content increases. In the 1950s, with an imperfect understanding of the area's geology, architects and planners didn't anticipate the implications of building on this fossil-friendly rock layer.
Over the years, however, the moisture-induced expansion of the ground beneath the Quarry Exhibit Hall caused upward movement of the building's foundations, floor slabs, and sidewalks. A monitoring program revealed serious dangers posed by this movement. In July 2006, Dinosaur National Monument closed the building for the safety of both visitors and staff.
Anchoring to Solid Rock
Links to the Past
On Oct. 4, 2011, after being closed for more than five years, the Quarry Exhibit Hall reopened to the public. Today, just as before, walls of glass frame the quarry face, allowing visitors to look beyond the quarry to the surrounding landscape.
In 1923, Earl Douglass, the paleontologist who established the dinosaur quarry, suggested that the government "leave the bones and skeletons in relief and house them." Douglass believed that doing so would create "one of the most astounding and instructive sights imaginable." It took more than 30 years for his vision to become a reality, but Douglass's assertion was correct.
In 1958, shortly after the Quarry Exhibit Hall opened to the public, Dinosaur's superintendent reported that public reaction to the building had been "most favorable." Today, Dinosaur National Monument staff hope that the rehabilitated Quarry Exhibit Hall will merit similar sentiments.
Did You Know?
Paleontologist Earl Douglass first came to Utah looking for mammal fossils. He returned in 1909 and discovered an immense deposit of dinosaur bones, now protected at Dinosaur National Monument. Although made famous by dinosaurs, Douglass died preferring his beloved mammal fossils over dinosaurs.