Montana State University

Museum of the Rockies, Montana’s sister state in Japan agree to strengthen bonds

March 30, 2015 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Pat Leiggi and Ikuo Kabashima (from left) hold the recently signed agreement between the Museum of the Rockies and the Kumamoto Prefecture. Leiggi and Carrie Ancell (right) represented the MOR at the ceremony. Kabashima is governor of Montana's sister state in Japan. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies). This display case devoted to Montana and the new agreement between the Museum of the Rockies and the Kumamoto Prefecture is the first thing visitors see when they enter the Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Japan. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies). The Museum of the Rockies and Montana's sister state in Japan recently signed a three-year agreement. This is the Japanese copy. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies).

Pat Leiggi and Ikuo Kabashima (from left) hold the recently signed agreement between the Museum of the Rockies and the Kumamoto Prefecture. Leiggi and Carrie Ancell (right) represented the MOR at the ceremony. Kabashima is governor of Montana's sister state in Japan. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies).

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BOZEMAN – Montanans and Asians have been bonding over dinosaurs for a good four years, and they officially plan to continue.

Administrators for the Museum of the Rockies and Montana’s sister state in Japan recently signed a three-year agreement – one copy in English and another in Japanese – that said they want to strengthen their relationship and look for even more ways to collaborate.

“I am honored by saying that the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University is filled with tremendous pride and gratitude as we enter into this Memorandum of Understanding that will contribute in strengthening the foundations of a bridge that unites us all,” said Shelley McKamey, dean and executive director of the Museum of the Rockies.

The MSU museum already has a sister museum relationship with the Mifune Dinosaur Museum in the Kumamoto Prefecture and regularly sends staff to Japan to assist with exhibits, train museum workers in fossil preparation, and speak to area groups. The executive director and chief curator of the Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Kumamoto visited Bozeman in 2013. The Museum of the Rockies has also sent a dinosaur exhibit through Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, attracting more than 800,000 visitors during its 2011-2014 tour.

The Feb. 24 Memorandum of Understanding – signed by McKamey and Ikuo Kabashima, governor of the Kumamoto Prefecture – indicates that more collaborations are ahead.

McKamey said the agreement fits into MSU’s strategic plan by helping the university become more engaged in the global community. The agreement could lead to more exchanges of staff and exhibits; more training; more consultations between museum professionals, curators and technical staff; and more sister museums since the Kumamoto Prefecture has more than 40 natural history museums. More trained preparators means that fossils should be ready sooner for exhibits and research.

MOR Director of Exhibits and Administrative Director of Paleontology Pat Leiggi -- who noted that Japan has significant dinosaur fossils that come from terrain much different than Montana’s -- said five Japanese communities have already shown strong interest in working with the Museum of the Rockies. Those communities are Kumamoto, Mifune, Amakusa, Goshoura and Mt. Aso.

McKamey said, “I expect more is going to happen in the future in other parts of Japan, but right now, we are concentrating on our sister state.”

The MOR-Kumamoto agreement shows what can happen through long-term relationships, McKamey said. She referred both to the agreement that created the sister-state relationship between Montana and Kumamoto Prefecture and the later agreements between the Museum of the Rockies and its sister museums.

The Memorandum of Understanding put it this way:

“Against a backdrop of abundant nature, rich culture and history, Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan and the State of Montana in the United States proclaimed a sister-state affiliation in 1982. Since this agreement was established, the sister-state relationship has fostered many human and material exchanges between Kumamoto and Montana in multiple fields, such as public administration, economics and culture.

“A strong relationship has already been established between Kumamoto prefecture and the Museum of the Rockies by the historical signing of a sister museum agreement between the Mifune Dinosaur Museum and the Museum of the Rockies, the Museum of the Rockies ongoing and developing community relationships with the Amakusa Geopark and museums in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Kumamoto City Museum’s hosting of the Museum of the Rockies blockbuster dinosaur exhibit.

“Kumamoto Prefecture and the Museum of the Rockies agree to continue to build on these already established relationships, and together will consider future collaborative museum and community relationships and projects.”

No state or federal money has been or will be spent in strengthening the MOR-Kumamoto relationships, McKamey said. Administrators at the Museum of the Rockies and the Kumamoto Prefecture will review the agreement in three years.

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Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu