Keeping Tabs on Construction of Dinosaur National Monument's Visitor Center

How best to shine a light on the fossil-studded cliffside in the new visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument isn't as easily answered as you might think. NPS photo.

Construction is progressing relatively smoothly on a new visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument, where the old one was torn down due to structural concerns. You can keep tabs on the new center's progress by checking out a website run by the monument's paleontologist.

In a recent post, Dr. Dan Chure discusses problems that had to be overcome in how best to illuminate the fossil-studded cliffside that was a hallmark of the old visitor center, and which will also be of the new one.

The design of the Quarry Visitor Center utilized natural rather than electric light in displaying the bones. To that end, the building had expansive glass walls on the south, east, and west side to take advantage of the large amount of ambient light on the top of the hill. Those glass faces are one of the most striking design elements of the building. It was a brilliant and highly successful idea. However, as with most things in the Quarry Visitor Center, some difficulties popped up down the road.

First, as time went on and the building began to move, the glass walls came under stress. Glass cracked or sometimes an entire pane would pop out of its frame. They could be replaced, although over time glass was replaced with plexiglass to reduce dangers from falling glass. The plexiglass sometimes cracked, but more often the panes would bow but stay in the frame.

As heating and cooling costs rose, UV filtering plastic sheeting was applied to the plexiglass panels. This helped prevent cracked panes from falling out, but did little in the long run to control temperature. Over the last several decades much more energy efficient plexiglass and other plastics have been developed for use in windows. So it is no surprise that the design for the new building would include totally new glass walls. Just replace the old panes with the new ones and voila, problems solved! Well not quite….

You can read the rest of Dr. Chure's post, and the solution that was reached for dealing with the windows, at his site.