Our HistoryA Brief History

Despite being a relatively young facility, the Royal Tyrrell Museum has established itself as Canada’s authority of palaeontology. What we lack in age, we make up for with our growing list of accomplishments.


Recovering from the collapse of the coal industry, Drumheller’s community leaders approached the Alberta Government in the mid-1970s looking for ways to bolster the local economy. In the late 1970s, it was decided that a new facility for studying palaeontology would be built in Midland Provincial Park, relocating and expanding the existing palaeontology program of the Provincial Museum of Alberta (now the Royal Alberta Museum).

The official announcement was made on July 1, 1980, and planning quickly followed. Initially intended to be a research and scientific facility, the plans soon changed to include a large public gallery and display area. In 1982, Dr. David Baird, former Director of the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, was hired to oversee the project, which would include both exhibits and educational programs.

During the construction phase, the Museum’s offices were located in downtown Drumheller. For the next three years, exhibit concepts and content were developed at a frantic pace. Dinosaur skeletons were mounted, collection items were earmarked for presentation in the galleries, videos were produced, display cases were built, and gigantic murals were painted.

On the morning of September 25, 1985 the Honourable Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta, officially opened the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. The event was witnessed by thousands of local citizens and supporters. The Museum’s name honours Joseph Burr Tyrrell  -- whose discovery of Albertosaurus in 1884 near Kneehill Creek (only a few kilometres away from the Museum’s site) led to the first wave of fossil hunting in the Canadian Badlands.

Initial projections suggested that the Museum would attract up to 150,000 visitors annually. Early visitation greatly surpassed these projections. In the Museum’s first year, it attracted over 500,000 visitors – more than any year since. From 1985 to 1991 Museum admission was free to the public, considered to be a gift from the Provincial government to the people of the region.

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©2010 Government of Alberta and ©2010 Royal Tyrrell Museum | Last Review/Update - January 30,2018