Friends of Big Bone announces visitor center revitalization at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Funding from R.C. Durr Foundation allows Cincinnati Museum Center exhibits team to redesign visitor center

UNION, KY – Friends of Big Bone (FOBB), Big Bone Lick State Historic Site (BBL) and Cincinnati Museum Center announce Phase 1 of the revitalization of Big Bone Lick’s visitor center through a $70,000 grant from the R.C. Durr Foundation. The foundation is further providing dollar for dollar matching funds up to an additional $70,000 to allow completion of the visitor center makeover. Friends of Big Bone are seeking private donations for this match.

big bone“The value of Big Bone Lick State Historic Site cannot be overstated,” says Kentucky ParksCommissioner, Elaine Walker. “This birthplace of American paleontology has connections to both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and will benefit greatly from the Durr Foundation grant. We are grateful that the Friends of Big Bone are undertaking this project.”

The project will repurpose the center from visitor information to interpretation and includes an interior redesign allowing Big Bone Lick’s historical narrative to be delivered in a vividly engaging way. Improvements will include a new central display, overhaul of casework containing fossils and artifacts, extension of the existing wall mural into a 3-D diorama and the inclusion of a timeline that will help visitors understand the history and significance of the park. A highlight will be the skeletal reconstruction of a giant ground sloth, an animal first discovered in Ice Age sediments at Big Bone Lick.

Interpretive text will be developed by Big Bone Lick park personnel and Friends of Big Bone. Cincinnati Museum Center staff will design and fabricate the new exhibits. It is anticipated that the information made available at the new center will encourage visitors to explore the park and more fully appreciate its role in the development of science. As the facility changes its approach through new exhibits, park staff will develop new presentations for the public, thus enriching the delivery of information to student groups and other visitors to the park.

“The project undertaken by Friends of Big Bone for the renovation of interpretive exhibits at the museum/visitor center will mark the beginning of a new era of interpretation at the site. The anticipated upgrades will greatly enhance the park’s ability to convey the incredible stories the park has to tell,” explained Park Manager Dean Henson.

Although the project is off to a strong start, private donations to the Friends of Big Bone, a 501c3 tax exempt, non-profit entity, are needed for its completion and to take full advantage of the matching grant money made available from the R.C. Durr Foundation. Donations of any size may be made at

Beginning with its discovery in 1739, Big Bone Lick State Historic Site drew the attention of notable European naturalists and America’s founding fathers. The first organized paleontological excavation in North America was conducted there in 1807 by William Clark at the request of Thomas Jefferson. The giant bones of extinct animals found there in the 18th and 19th centuries created intense interest and discussion in the emerging scientific community. The study of these “big bones” fed the development of new concepts such as extinction, climate change and evolution. Currently the park staff present educational programs and on-site tours, maintain a bison herd and host an annual Salt Festival comprising demonstrations and displays that represent Big Bone’s past.