ROUNDUP — Roundup may not be Montana's number one tourist destination, but exciting things are in the works with the potential to draw in crowds worldwide.
The Musselshell Valley Historical Museum is filled top-to-bottom with pieces of history. It has so much on display, that it has started to run out of room.
The museum is filling up fast—thanks to Tom Hebert of the Earth Sciences Foundation.
Hebert's youngest daughter wanted to dig for dinosaur fossils, so he researched how to make that happen. He ended up finding a man in South Dakota that agreed to take them out.
On the first day, his daughter found a 4-1/2-inch T-Rex tooth, and he was hooked.
After a while of just doing these digs for fun, Hebert decided it was time for a change.
"I looked at my soon-to-be new wife, and said ‘You know what, I’m done,’" Hebert says. "I used to own an insurance agency and said ‘I want to sell the agency, go back to school, and dig dinosaurs for a living,’ and she looked at me and said ‘It’s about time.’ So I went back to school and got a degree in geology.”
While in school, Hebert realized how many barriers there can be in education when it comes to research and access to materials and knowledge.
Even in higher education, it can be difficult to learn hands on if your school lacks resources, says Hebert.
"I decided to start the Earth Sciences Foundation with the premise of getting kids into science, helping college kids that want to ask a question and their university may not have the resources or the ability to help them," Hebert explains. "Bring them to us and we’ll make it happen.”
Now, Hebert takes groups of all ages from all walks of life out on "Dinosaur Digs"—at no cost to them. Veterans, school field trips, or even just an adult wanting to learn more are welcome to join.
Hebert also educates the groups and allows them to work hands on with the fossils they find.
“We actually give you the opportunity to hold a real dinosaur bone. Go ahead, hold it," Hebert tells MTN News. "I want you to feel the weight, the sense of smallness, humility, learning a perspective, different than what we’re used to.”
Hebert and his team have already found over 2,500 dinosaur fossils in Musselshell County this year.
Hebert partnered with the Musselshell Valley Historical Museum to display these fossils.
But they are quickly running out of room, so Hebert approached the board about getting more space.
Hebert explains that the board said that if he could find the money, he could move forward. So he applied to the Signal Peak Community Fund—and received a grant for the museum.
That grant is now being used to add to the building to create more space.
But Hebert isn't the only one making this happen.
John Chavez and Stephanie Graben own Pronto Construction in Roundup and have teamed up with Hebert to make this project possible.
The husband and wife team have donated their time, an entire crew, and materials for this project, all to help out the community.
“The community’s been good to us, so we’ve been trying to give back as much as we can, to the kids and the community in general," says Chavez.
Graben adds: "As long as the community wins, that's all that matters."
Graben said that this museum expansion, along with the services the Earth Sciences Foundation provides, are a great way to get kids off of their screens.
Signal Peak, Gebhardt Sawmill, and a local welder also deserve recognition for their contributions, Chavez explains.
The museum is open from May to September. What will be housed inside the expansion is a surprise to the public—so Hebert says you'll have to visit them after they open on May 1, 2023 to see for yourself.
So the next time you drive through Roundup, consider stopping by the Musselshell Valley Historical Museum to take a trip back in time.
Hebert, Chavez and Graben say they are going to continue to find projects around the community to encourage tourism.
“This is an unbelievable area, the history here and the people here. I’ve been all over the world and Roundup feels like home," Hebert says. "It’s just exciting to see the community’s excited about the community again. Hopefully, they’ll keep the ball rolling. And it’s not just dinosaurs, it’s about growing this community and helping the businesses that are here."