Museum at Black Hills Institute
Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
44Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
I checked out of my hotel in Pierre, SD and drove to Hill City, SD. As I got to the Black Hills there were motorcycles everywhere. I didn't realize the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally wasn't just in Sturgis but spills out into the surrounding area.
I found a place to park in Hill City and walked to the Museum at Black Hills Institute. You enter through Everything Prehistoric, their gift shop.
The museum is only one room abut it's packed with fossils and other displays. The Black Hills Institute has found many Tyranosaurus rex fossils and they have many of them, or casts of them, on display.
One of their finds that is not on display is Sue, the largest, most complete and best preserved T. rex fossil found to date. The story of Sue is very complicated and a couple books have been written about it. In a nutshell, people from the Black Hills Institute found and dug up Sue. They were a couple years into prepping the bones when they were confiscated by the FBI and the National Guard due to a court case over who owned them. They were eventually given to the landowner in spite of the fact that the Black Hills Institute had paid him to hunt for fossils on his land, which turned out not to actually be his land but property of the U.S. government. Someone from Black Hills Institute wound up going to jail for something uncovered during the lawsuit but unrelated to Sue.
The landowner then put the remains up for auction. The Field Museum in Chicago was worried that the fossil would end up in a private collection where people would not be able to observe it. They were able to get financial backing from a number of doners to assist in purchasing Sue for the museum. They had the winning bid of $8,362,500.
After purchasing Sue the Field Museum had the fossil prepped and mounted and it is now on display in the lobby of the museum. In spite of the museum's concern about lack of access to the fossil should it fall into private hands, they have not made casts of the bones available as the Black Hills Institute has done for all of their other finds.
My next stop is Devils Tower National Monument. It's close enough to Sturgis that I couldn't find a room near there either. The closest I found was in Moorcroft, about 30 miles west of the park. I drove there and checked in at my hotel.