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Museum's Mesozoic monsters getting back on their feet again

Chief Preparator Carrie Herbel arranges a column of vertebrae for mounting.
The Allosaurus charges in to chomp on the Camptosaurus
Archaeological exhibits such as the pit house are also becoming more lively
Chief Preparator Carrie Herbel has already spent hundreds of hours assembling dinosaurs in the pit.

Sun Advocate associate editor

After years of lying around looking dead, herbivores and carnivores are interacting

Giving a facelift to dinosaurs can be a difficult thing, but that isn't stopping the staff at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum from embarking on a full scale overhaul of some of the most impressive artifacts in North America.

Since being hired in November 2013, Prehistoric Museum Chief Preparator Carrie Herbel has been revamping the repository's dinosaur exhibits. She works with Director and Curator Kenneth Carpenter to update the museum's paleontological species, by making them accessible and exciting for anyone touring hall.

As a large part of the museum centers the world class examples of Mesozoic reptiles found in Eastern Utah, changing the dinosaur exhibits was one of Carpenter's first projects when he took over as director. The nearby Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, contains many different species, with the carnivorous Allosaurus being the predominant creature found in this rich bone bed.

The deposit also includes the Camarasaurus, Camptosaurus and Stegosaurus. However with continuing research, these skeletal creatures are now being remounted and newly displayed in such a way as to give museum goers a glimpse into how the creatures originally moved.

This has been a dream of Dr. Carpenter's, and he has found an equally excited partner in Herbel, who is working daily to change the museum's look.

For instance, the repository's Allosaurus is now being exhibited running in order to grab and devour the small herbivore, Camptosaurus.

According to a USU Prehistoric Museum press release, the Allosaurus was originally mounted in a rather "boring" static pose and the Camptosaurus was displayed in what many paleontologists call a "kangaroo pose." Obviously, the paleo group isn't too hot on the "kangaroo pose."

"But no more," said Herbel.

The museum's Stegosaurus has also undergone some major changes. Before Carpenter and Herbel got their hands on it, the dinosaur was lying down in a death pose. The group is currently working on an exhibit which will feature the armor-plated dinosaur in a dynamic pose, looking back at the attacking Allosaurus with its tall spikes swinging towards the carnivorous predator.

The museum's team has plans to change virtually all of the dinosaur exhibits with the Camarasaurus skeleton getting the next treatment. That project is slated to begin in the spring of 2015.

For those who visit the museum, the newly completed exhibits are only part of the enjoyment to be had from what is being done at USU Eastern. The working professionals who are re-creating these exhibits can be seen daily applying their trade.

As the work is being done right inside the paleo-hall, work that is typically done behind closed doors is largely available for the public to see.

According to the museum's staff, other recent changes at the prehistoric museum include a renovation of the repository's most storied find, the Huntington Mammoth.

The museum's hominids are also getting an overhaul as many changes have been made to the Archaeological side of the museum. The Fremont Pit House diorama has also been completed with the addition of more products stored and displayed reflecting what is known about these Fremont people and how they lived. The exhibit also shows what products were used by these native peoples and what they ate and enjoyed.

With a continued focus on interaction, the recently completed "What is Archaeology??" exhibit provides the public with drawers full of text and objects which can be touched and explored. These exhibits were the brain child of Director of Education Lloyd Logan and Curator of Archeology Tim Riley. A sister exhibit titled "What is Paleontology," is underway with Logan assisting Dr. Carpenter and Herbel.

The prehistoric museum's staff encourages those who have seen the old exhibits to come back and view the changes. Children are always welcome and annual passes are available for single adults as well as families in conjunction with the museum in Moab.

The USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum has worked out an agreement where anyone who purchases an annual pass to the Price facility will have that pass honored at the Museum of Moab and vice versa. Double the education for a single price.

"I think sometimes our even our local public forgets what a treasure they have right here on Main Street in Price," said USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum Public Relations Director. "So much is going on right now and so much has been going on, come in and see us."

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