Dr. Philip J. Currie, Dr Eva Koppelhus, and Brian Brake.
Photo by Laura Beauchamp
EDMONTON — Philip Currie is well-accustomed to his life’s work finding its way into museums. Now, Alberta’s best-known paleontologist will have to get used to his name adorning the front of one.
A new $26.4-million facility near Grande Prairie will be called the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.
“It’s a funny feeling, it’s strange. In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have expected it,” Currie, 62, said after the announcement was made this week. “Once I got over the shock of finding out they wanted to do this, I said I would because it’s an amazing honour.”
West of Grande Prairie, the Pipestone Creek fossil bed has already yielded more than 3,500 complete bones and samples from more than 40 animals.
Currie was one of the first scientists to do work in the area, back in the 1970s, shortly after he came to Alberta. He believes a new museum in the area will educate Albertans and tourists to the fact that the entire province is a fine source of fossils, not just the well-known Drumheller area and its Royal Tyrrell Museum.
“The nice thing about two museums is to expand thinking beyond Drumheller, to the larger package. The whole province is incredibly rich in these matters.”
The museum will also provide paleontologists with two bases to work and store fossils in the province.
Brian Brake, executive director of the project, said Currie’s long association with the area and his international prominence made him an easy choice. “We wanted someone who gave us instant recognition.”
The museum’s previous working title was River of Death Discovery Dinosaur Museum, a reference to the mass drowning of a herd of animals in the late Cretaceous period that provided the area with many of its fossils. However, Brake said the name turned many people off. One corporate sponsor refused to support the project unless the name was changed, Brake said.
“What they wanted was a name more associated with the living, and hopefully that’s me,” Currie said with a laugh
The museum will be in the town of Wembley, on Highway 43, near Grande Prairie. If all the funding falls into place, Brake said it is possible to break ground on the project in August or September.
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