Shelley McKamey, executive director of the Montana State University museum, signed an agreement establishing Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Kumamoto Prefecture as a sister institution with the Museum of the Rockies at a July 20 ceremony in Japan.
The signing ceremony came one year after the MOR signed an agreement with the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama, Japan, where MOR opened its Asian dinosaur tour. The Fukui museum is located on the west side of the main Japanese island of Honshu.
The Asian tour of the dinosaur exhibit "Growth and Behavior of Dinosaurs" is expected to be viewed by more than 1 million people in Japan, Vietnam and Thailand over 2 ½ years. It is the first time in more than 20 years that the museum has sent any of its collection out of the United States.
After spending a year at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum and the Osaka Museum of Natural History, the exhibit has moved to the Kumamoto City Museum, which is just 10 miles from the Mifune museum on the island of Kyushu.
Though the Mifune museum lacks the space to display the exhibit, the Museum of the Rockies sent a jacket of sauropod bones to the museum for preparation and eventual display in the winter of 2012. In February this year, MOR Director of Exhibits and Administrative Director of Paleontology Pat Leiggi and Senior Fossil Preparator Carrie Ancell spent several days at the Mifune museum, providing training. Leiggi also gave a public lecture while there.
The agreement with Mifune encourages friendship and exchanges between the United States and Japan and aims to strengthen the museums' relationships through cooperation, promotion of exhibits, scientific research and educational outreach. Representatives from each museum will discuss exchanges that will benefit both museums in the future.
MSU President Waded Cruzado spoke at the signing ceremony. Leiggi set up the sister agreement after the Mifune Dinosaur Museum approached the Museum of the Rockies for assistance. The signing ceremony received prominent play in Japanese newspapers.
"I am delighted that three decades of sisterhood continue to blossom into new friendships and opportunities," Cruzado said, referring to the 30th anniversary of Montana and Kumamoto becoming sister-states. "I look forward to the future as our relationship grows."
The agreement and a gift from the Mifune museum - a silver cast of the first dinosaur fossils discovered in Mifune - will be displayed in the Museum of the Rockies lobby, McKamey said. MSU Curator of Paleontology Jack Horner said Japan's first dinosaur fossils were found around Mifune.
"The museum and community are extremely grateful for this relationship with the Museum of the Rockies and MSU," McKamey said.
While in Japan, Cruzado, McKamey and Leiggi visited with the presidents of Kumamoto University and Kumamoto Gakuen University, both of whom have sister relationships with MSU. They met several other dignitaries as well, including the governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, members of his cabinet and numerous prefectural and city officials on the island of Kyushu. They also met with several MSU alumni who are Japanese or now live in the Kumamoto area.
Elements from the Museum of the Rockies' Siebel Dinosaur Complex were re-created for the Asian traveling exhibit. Several real fossils - including the largest Tyrannosauru rex skull in the world - as well as life-size animatronic models created by the Kokoro Co. in Tokyo are part of the display. So are a full-size model of a T. rex, and a cast of "Big Mike" which stands in front of the Museum of the Rockies.
The Museum of the Rockies developed the exhibition using funds from the profits of past traveling exhibitions and plans to invest revenue made through the Asia tour into future MOR traveling exhibitions.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or email@example.com