Library display turning heads

A sight for saur eyes

There’s a real head-turner these days inside the Lawrence Public Library.

“Almost everybody who has come walking in has stopped and looked at it, and it doesn’t matter if they are kids or adults,” said Joy Steiner, youth services coordinator at the library, 707 Vt.

The attention-grabber: a fossilized skull of a young Triceratops dinosaur that went on display about two weeks ago near the front desk.

“There have been a lot of ‘wows,'” said Marie Butler, the library’s community relations director, describing the reactions from library patrons.

The fossil belongs to Alan Detrich, a longtime Kansas fossil hunter, who on July 4 will put the Triceratops skull up for sale on the online auction site eBay. Though a formal agreement still has to be worked out, Detrich promised to give some of the sales money to the library. Library officials aren’t sure now how the money will be used.

“We are very grateful,” Steiner said of Detrich’s offer.

“It just seemed like a good thing to do,” Detrich said. “I want to do some positive things for the community.”

Detrich, 57, formerly owned Detrich Fossil Co. in Great Bend and for years hunted dinosaur fossils for profit in Kansas and elsewhere. He retired last summer and turned over the business to his brother. He now lives in Lawrence.

Several weeks ago Detrich “just walked in off the street” and asked library officials whether they would like to have the Triceratops fossil for display, Butler and Steiner said. The offer was quickly accepted and the fossil will remain in the library through August.

Cleo LeMaster, 8, gets a close-up inspection of a fossilized Triceratops skull on display at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. The skull was found in Montana and belong to Alan Detrich, a fossil hunter from Great Bend who now lives in Lawrence. The skull and a resin cast of the femur of a Tyrannosaurus will be on display at the library through August.

Detrich wouldn’t say how much money he thought the fossil might bring on eBay. But some fossils have been known to sell for millions of dollars, depending on the type of dinosaur and who is buying them.

The skull was found in Montana. About 60 percent of it is fossilized bone, which is considered a good find in the world of paleontology, according to library officials and Detrich. The rest of the skull is filled in with polyester resin in a standard reconstruction method. On display with the skull is a 100 percent polyester cast of a Tyrannosaurus femur.

Visitors to the library — including children — are allowed to touch the skull but cannot climb on it, library officials said.

Cleo LeMaster, 8, and her father, Tennyson LeMaster, of Lawrence, examined the skull last week.

“I don’t think I’ve seen one in the museum,” Cleo said. “I bet the adult is really big.”

Her father also was impressed. “This is amazing, and to have it here in the library,” he said.

The Triceratops is the second-most popular dinosaur in the world, Detrich said.

“You ask kids to name the dinosaurs and it is T. rex (Tyrannosaurs rex) first and Triceratops comes in second,” he said.

Detrich continues to study paleontology along with taking a sculpting class at Kansas University. He hopes the skull displayed at the library will stir scientific interest in children.

Triceratops, meaning three-horned

“If they show an interest in paleontology and decide they want to be a dinosaur hunter, they might just accidentally mess up and become a doctor or something,” Detrich said with a laugh.

Detrich once campaigned for the Xiphactinus fish, or X-fish, to become the state fossil. The X-fish was a giant fanged fish that once swam in an ocean that covered Kansas millions of years ago. Legislators, however, decided they had more important things to do.

While Detrich has sold many dinosaur fossils, he also has donated some to museums.