Dinosaur exhibition opens with great fanfare at San Juan College museum

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan College officials were all smiles Oct. 29 as the unveiling of a new dinosaur exhibition at the school's Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology drew an overflow crowd.

The event, which featured free food and children's activities, was held to celebrate the opening of an $89,000 display of six replica dinosaur fossils. The replicas were created and installed by a Colorado company called Triebold Paleontology Inc. They were purchased by the San Juan College Foundation with a donation that came mostly from the Dugan family, as a way of honoring the late local oilman Sherman Dugan, for whom the museum is named. Other financial assistance was provided by the Friends of Sherman Dugan group.

"It's overwhelming," Sean Dugan, son of Sherman Dugan, said after the display was unveiled. "I love the reception and that the community came out. I knew they would. … I know my family would have been elated."

Visitors to the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology at San Juan College check out the institution's new dinosaur exhibition during its unveiling ceremony on Oct. 29, 2019, in Farmington.

The unveiling drew a festive crowd of approximately 1,000 people, many of them families with children outfitted in Halloween costumes. A long line of observers formed quickly to see the exhibition, which was concealed behind a black curtain. It wasn't until midway through the event, after San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass and San Juan College Foundation executive director Gayle Dean had spoken, that the dinosaurs were unveiled.

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The reaction of visitors was everything he could have hoped for, Sean Dugan said.

"Honestly, this is why we started this museum in the first place," he said. "It's going to give kids in the Four Corners a chance to take in this kind of natural history they can only find in this part of the world."

A replica fossil of an Agujaceratops, a relative of the Triceratops, is displayed on Oct. 29, 2019, in the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology on the San Juan College campus in Farmington.

Dean said she was thrilled by the turnout and by the exhibition itself.

"It surpassed my highest expectations," she said.

Dean credited Suzie Neely, the decorator who created the platform on which the display is mounted, for her work. She believes the exhibition will serve as a major attraction for years to come.

Gayle Dean, left, executive director of the San Juan College Foundation, talks about the new dinosaur exhibition at the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology on Oct. 29, 2019, before the display is unveiled.

"That's exactly what we hoped for," she said. "This is not a display for San Juan College, it's a display for the whole county. This is for everyone to enjoy, and that's what we planned and that's what we wanted."

Sean Dugan said he had not seen the display in advance of the unveiling, explaining that he wanted to be surprised when he viewed it at the public event. He said the replicas are much bigger than he anticipated.

Sean Dugan, left, addresses the crowd at the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology on Oct. 29, 2019, before the institution's new dinosaur display is unveiled.

"I wouldn't want to run into any of them," he said, smiling.

The collection is anchored by a replica fossil of an Albertosaurus sarcophagus, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex; an Agujaceratops, relative of the Triceratops; male and female examples of the Nyctosaurus gracilis, which were flying dinosaurs; a carnivorous mammal, a Didelphoden, which was a marsupial.

The Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology is located at the School of Energy on the San Juan College campus at 5301 College Blvd.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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