Standing in a straight line under the overcast sky, 10 grinning adults dig their shovels into the green grass. Dirt begins to fly.
The Missouri Institute of Natural Science in Springfield broke ground on Tuesday for an expansion that will double the size of the museum.
“We stand right here in what will be the front door of the new addition.”
That’s Matt Forir, the museum’s director. Leaning on his shovel, he gestures to the lawn around him.
“Behind me, when it’s done here in the fall, will be the world’s largest triceratops ever on display,” says Forir.
That triceratops is named Henry. He’s not from around here. His bones were actually discovered in Wyoming.
“My crew here that digs in Riverbluff Cave wanted to go out and dig up a dinosaur. So I said sure, let’s do that,” Forir explains.
Forir has friends in the fossil business. So, in the middle of a 60,000 acre ranch,
“We went out, and found Henry.”
That was three years ago.
“I kind of started to fall in the love with Henry early on because he was so big, this massive, full-- we were finding these T-rex teeth, you know, shredded teeth, nanotyrannus teeth with it.”
So, Forir began the process of transporting Henry from Wyoming to the Show-Me State.
“I was talking to the rancher, and I said…what’s it going to take for us to get this back home?”
And coming this October, “home” will finally be ready for Henry, thanks to both an anonymous donor and Bates and Associates Architects.
“We came in and we saw what they were doing for the community, and we view it as a community project, so we decided we were going to help them with the plans and the designs they needed.”
That’s Rich Conyers with Bates and Associates. He’s excited to help expand the museum because of its novelty in this area. Never seen a fully restored triceratops? That’s understandable, because:
“We don’t really have that in Springfield, Missouri.”
Brett Houser, a board member, says Henry the triceratops isn’t the only reason he’s excited about the expansion.
“We have fossils we have no room to display, we have a much larger collection than what you [currently] see in the museum,” says Houser.
The new building will also be used to host educational presentations and as a venue to reserve for private events.
Forir says the overall goal, however, isn’t the expansion itself.
“Our goal isn’t just to build another building, or expand what we have, or dig up another dinosaur. It’s basically to inspire the people of the area to get into science, to do great things,” says Forir.
Picking up his shovel and pushing it into the dirt, he looked at the gathered crowd.
“Maybe the next doctor, chemist, the guy who cures cancer, will be inspired by what he sees here.”