On September 1, we received two visitors bearing gifts for the Museum of Geology archives. Mr. Nason Hoyt arrived with his wife Beth to deliver an important piece of SDSMT history.
Nason’s uncle was Harry Keester, a long-time resident of Imlay, SD, and rancher who lived in the South Dakota badlands for most of his life. One of his favorite hobbies was searching for fossils in the Eocene and Oligocene sediments of the White River Group. One Sunday afternoon in 1947, Harry came across what appeared to be the tip of a large horn. After some initial excavation, Harry realized he was on to something big.
He later talked with then Museum Director James Bump, who went out to check on the specimen with chief preparator Harold Martin. All three recognized the significance of the specimen, and excavation began a few years later in 1949. With the help of Harry Keester, the three embarked on a multi-week excavation of one of the most complete skeletons of the titanothere Brontops robustus to not only be collected by the Museum of Geology, but one of the most complete specimens to ever be documented.
That specimen, SDSM 4912, is still on display and has since become the official mascot of the Museum of Geology.
On October 2, 1949, the Rapid City Daily journal published an extensive article on the excavation of the specimen. The headline “Fossil Find Tremendous” appears above photos of the excavation. Nason came across these articles among his uncle’s files and realized their importance to the Museum of Geology.
This donation represents a significant addition to the historical archives documenting past activity by museum scientists. Thank you, Nason, for this important part of our museum’s history!