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Fossil, bison moved from governor’s ceremonial office
Kansas fossil hunter questions Statehouse changes
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Photo of Alan Detrich with the state fossil mosasaur leaving governor’s Ceremonial Office last week. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

TOPEKA – With the change to Gov. Laura kelly’s administration, there have been decorative changes to the Kansas governor’s ceremonial office in the Statehouse. 

The decorative 17-foot juvenile mosasaur fossil and mounted North American bison that had decorated the office will be relocated, said Ashley All, spokesperson for Kelly. “We are working with the Kansas Historical Society to prominently display the fossil and buffalo in the visitors’ center of the Capitol. This ensures that many more people will be able to see these important artifacts.”

The Kansas State Capitol Visitor Center is the gateway to the historic building. Located to the north side on ground level, the center includes the Capitol Store, the tour desk, a classroom and auditorium, as well as exhibits on the history of state government and the building.

The ceremonial office, which once served as the working office for the governor, is on the second floor of the Statehouse. Items on display are chosen by the sitting governor.

However, some of these changes aren’t sitting well with fossil hunter and former Great Bend resident Alan Detrich. “This is all about removing the good things that Governor Brownback and Governor Jeff Colyer did while they were in office,” said paleontologist who discovered and mounted the fossil before giving to the State of Kansas. 

“I donated that fossil so that schoolchildren visiting the governor’s office could not only meet the governor, but learn about Kansas’ ancient history,” Detrich said. The mosasaur, a swimming reptile, is coiled up in its “death pose” from when it was under an inland sea millions of years ago. 

“I guess all this talk about education in the campaign was just a talking point,” said Detrich. “Children love fossils, and this specimen fires their imagination. They see that sea monsters are real, and native to Kansas.”

The mosasaur has been on display on the wall of Brownback and Coyler. “Both governors have told me that schoolchildren and adults alike are mesmerized by the fossil. Governor Kelly claims to be the ‘education governor,’ but apparently wants to hide this treasure,” said Detrich.

Detrich said his idea of donating the fossil for display in the governor’s office began when Kansas schoolchildren began a petition drive to have Kansas join other states in naming an official state fossil. Brownback signed a bill into law in 2014 designating the tylosauruas, a giant mosasaur, as the Kansas marine fossil, and the pteranodon, a winging pterosaur, as the Kansas flight fossil. 

Detrich said he actually loaned the fossil to Kansas, but he did so with the understanding that it would be used for educational purposes. “It belongs in the capitol building, not some warehouse.”