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Vernal museum to move dinosaur fossils to new home

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VERNAL, Utah (AP) — Workers at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal are ready for a major move.

They've packed some 33,000 dinosaur fossils, rock samples and other specimens for the move from an aging building to a state-of-the-art repository two blocks away.

The pieces of the region's prehistoric past will be moved beginning this week, officials said, and the bulk of them should be at their new home by the end of this month. Employees began preparing for the move in August.

"If you were to move an entire neighborhood of houses, you're kind of looking at what we're up against here at the museum," said Mary Beth Bennis-Bottomley, the park's curator of education.

The $1.5 million for the new 11,664-square-foot fossil repository and laboratory building came from the Uintah Impact Mitigation Special Service District, which is funded by mineral lease money paid by oil and natural gas companies in Utah, the Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/ZqcWhl ).

It will allow museum staff to properly store and prepare fossils and artifacts that have been discovered in eastern Utah's Uintah Basin. Without the new facility, many of the fossils and artifacts were destined for six museums in cities from San Diego to Pittsburgh.

The specimens have been stored in the dilapidated, 63-year-old building that used to be home to the Field House before the current museum opened in 2004.

The new repository, which is located next to the existing museum, is a cavernous, climate-controlled space capable of housing decades of fossil discoveries, said Steve Sroka, park manager at the museum.

"This room is about 8,600 square feet, which gives us about 2,000 to 3,000 more square feet of space (than the old building) for storage of specimens," Sroka told the Deseret News.

The laboratory space features floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall, which look out onto the museum's main hall. They will allow visitors to watch park staff and volunteers work on finds in the museum's vast collection.

"People can come and see how fossils are prepped, how they are cared for and what the real work entails to get a bone from out in the field into the exhibits for display," Bennis-Bottomley said.

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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

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