A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State dignitaries attend unveiling of Thematic Cases at Big Bone Visitor Center, phase one of project

By Mark Hansel

NKy Tribune Managing Editor

The new Thematic Cases have been installed at the Visitor Center at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site in southern Boone County

The cases, which highlight some of the significant moments and discoveries in the history of Big Bone Lick, were unveiled at the visitor center Thursday.

The display, the first phase of a three-part project, was the brainchild of the Friends of Big Bone and was made possible by a $70,000 grant from the R.C. Durr Foundation.

Pat Lense of Friends of Big Bone, talks with Secretary Bob Stewart of the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet and Elaine Walker, commissioner of the Kentucky Parks Department

Pat Lense of Friends of Big Bone, left, talks with Secretary Bob Stewart of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and Elaine Walker, commissioner of the Kentucky Parks Department

The unveiling  event, which was open to the public, included Secretary Bob Stewart of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and Elaine Walker, commissioner of the Kentucky Parks Department.

Stewart said there are several “friends” groups throughout the state, but none more committed than Friends of Big Bone.

“I’m so impressed with the work that the friends group has done here and this is the model that we are going to have to duplicate at parks all across the state,” Stewart said. “We’ve got 49 state park properties and with budgets being as tight as they are, there is no way that we can really grow or even take care of our state parks. This adds a wonderful educational component to the site.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to reconfigure the visitor center into an interpretive building that relates the story of the region in a more comprehensive way.

one of the new thematic cases unveiled at the Big Bone Lick State Historic Site Thursday

One of the new thematic cases unveiled at the Big Bone Lick State Historic Site Thursday

The cases line the wall to the left of the visitor center main entrance, opposite the Pleistocene Wall Mural.

Phase 3 of the project, which is targeted for completion in 2017, is a three-dimensional Paleontological reconstruction of the mural to provide a more realistic historical interpretation.

Phase 2, the skeletal reconstruction of a giant ground sloth, an animal first discovered in Ice Age sediments at Big Bone Lick, will be completed next year if donation goals are met.

The R.C. Durr Foundation has agreed to match Friends of Big Bone donations for the project through the end of 2015, up to an additional $70,000. That would allow the remaining phases of the project to be completed.

Wilbert L. Ziegler, president and CEO of the R.C. Durr foundation said the Friends of Big Bone project is consistent with the goals of the organization.

“The Durr Foundation looks particularly for groups that are full of enthusiasm and can identify a worthy project, but do not have the funding to do it,” Ziegler said. “So we kind of supply the gas if they supply the elbow grease and it works, and has worked, in several instances. What they have done here is very impressive.”

Dave Might, exhibits coordinator/artist at the Cincinnati Museum Center, oversaw the creation of the cases.

“We have been talking to the Friends and they started telling us all of the things we didn’t know about the place and we realized there really should be an exhibit,” Might said. “So we jumped in with both feet.”

The project took about 18 months to complete.

Pat Fox, right, president of Friends of Big Bone, shares a laugh with social media director for the organization and Jennifer Warner of Petersburg

Pat Fox, right, president of Friends of Big Bone, shares a laugh with Sarah Phipps, social media coordinator for the organization and Jennifer Warner of Petersburg

Pat Fox, president of Friends of Big Bone, said the event provided an opportunity for the public to see how donations to the organization are utilized.

“When you (donate money) it will be applied through us back into the park,” Fox said. “When you take that journey from an idea of understanding that the park is undeveloped to bringing attention to it significance in terms of its history and prehistory. When you do that, you can draw in an audience and learn from what some of these pieces are trying to tell us.”

The event also included presentations on the history of Big Bone Lick from members of the Cincinnati Museum Center staff.

The Big Bone Lick Valley is the home of Pleistocene vertebrate paleontology. Significant events in its history include the first organized paleontology expedition in the United States, led by William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame.

The significance of its 12,000-plus year continuum of human activity and occupation, was recognized by historic figures, including Benjamin Franklin, Georges Cuvier and Thomas Jefferson.

Artifact from the Big Bone Lick expedition Jefferson commissioned in 1807 remain on display at his Monticello estate today.

Walker said education is a key component of Big Bone and the state Parks Department is working to develop programs to expose more children to its history.

“The (Kentucky State Parks) Foundation has funded a grant, so teachers can afford to rent the buses to bring people here,” Walker said.

Big Bone pinMolly Caldwell of the Parks Foundation also presented a check for $1,000 (which Fox pointed out amounted to $2,000 with the Durr Foundation match) to support the Visitor Center renovation project.

Jennifer Warner of Petersburg, who has been a member of Friends of Big Bone “off and on” over the years was very impressed by the upgrade.

“I remember when the displays consisted of drawers that you pulled open and it was really hard to see things,” Warner said. “This is much more modern and I hope it engages people because this history is so important.”

For more information on Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, go to http://parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/big-bone-lick/ . To inquire about Friends of Big Bone projects, or to become a member, go to www.friendsofbigbone.org/.

Related Posts

2 Comments

  1. Will Ziegler says:

    Excellent article. True to the mission of the Tribune to bring local news to the forefront and make the Northern Kentucky population aware of happenings in the area.

  2. Judy Clabes says:

    Thanks so much, Will Ziegler. Means a lot to us, especially coming from you.

Leave a Comment