It doesn't look much like a museum. In fact, from the outside it looks more like a maintenance shack.
But inside is housed one of the finest collections of fossils anywhere in the United States: dinosaurs, birds, fish, wood. You name it, the Earth Science Museum at Brigham Young University has it.Actually, the museum has much more than most members of the public will ever see. The facility has thousands of fossils - ranging from an 8-foot-long dinosaur humerus to tiny seashells - all tucked away on shelves and in drawers in four different buildings.
And under Cougar Stadium reside more than 100 tons of fossil bones yet to be prepared for exhibit.
Less than one-fiftieth of the museum's material is currently displayed.
"We have a lot of casts and original material ready and waiting to be put up," said Dr. Wade Miller, director of the museum. "There is a tremendous need for us to get a museum and some first-class exhibits."
The ultimate goal is a $15 million building adjacent to the Bean Museum near the Marriott Center. A third museum to house archaeological artifacts and a fourth building to house traveling exhibits, such as the Ramses II exhibit, are also on the drawing board as part of the same museum complex.
University officials have said a new earth sciences building will have to come from private donors. And considering the lack of wealthy paleontologist-alumni from BYU, Miller said that is going to be difficult.
That's why Miller has taken his quest to the public. He admits the museum hasn't done a good job of advertising itself or what it has to offer. And that lack of name recognition has hindered fund-raising efforts.
"People don't want to sink money into an unknown," he said. "If they would come down and see what we've got, they'd be impressed. Everyone who comes asks why we don't have more room for more exhibits."
The existing Earth Sciences Museum just celebrated its first anniversary. Several impressive exhibits compete for limited space. Most people like the cozy atmosphere because it allows them to get close to the dinosaur bones, and in some cases actually touch them.
But Miller and his staff wish they could do more with the impressive fossil resources they have. The lack of space has limited the number of exhibits explaining what they all mean or how they came to be.
"With funding, we could do something really great," Miller said.
Funding needs actually total about $20 million to $22 million, including the cost of a new facility, exhibits and staff.
Such a facility would allow scientists to present the pre-history of the earth in a chronological, easy-to-understand way, beginning with the creation of the solar system, through the era of dinosaurs and fossils, to the time of mammals and the Ice Age.
In addition to benefiting the public, the facility would also enhance the university's image in the scientific community, allowing for exchange research programs and visiting professors.
"The top scientists in the world agree we have a worldclass collection," said Miller. "And they agree something needs to be done to house it."
And that something should be more than a shed-like facility across from Cougar Stadium.