Dinosaur museum not ready for extinction

Dinosaur museum not ready for extinction
It has taken Keith Roynon 70 years to amass his collection of fossils and dinosaur skeletons. His museum in his home’s garage is in the process of moving to a bigger venue on East Grand Avenue. Photo by Ellen Wright

ESCONDIDO — For most North County residents a garage is a place to house their cars, extra knick-knacks, or even recent college graduates.

For Keith Roynon, it’s become his prehistoric portal offering local school children glimpses into a time long before smart phones, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

After 15 years of operation, the nonprofit is finally ready to expand its Pterosaurs’ wings and move to a larger space.

“The ceilings are full of Pterosaurs, so we need to move,” said Roynon, founder of The Roynon Museum. “There isn’t any room to do anything anymore. We need to expand so we can get large dinosaur material in here.”

The museum will be moved to East Grand Avenue and Roynon plans to be open by late September.

Currently, the museum, which is located in his two-car garage, is only open for school and scout groups.

Once the museum sets up in its new digs, it will be open to the public.

Over the years, Roynon has collected roomfuls of artifacts, including 110 dinosaur eggs, dinosaur skeleton replicas and even prehistoric poop.

Roynon said the museum is so popular with children that they won’t miss it, even if they’ve fallen ill.

“I’ve had kids pass out on me and fall flat,” Roynon said.

This rare skeleton of a tiny prehistoric horse was found in tact. Photo by Ellen Wright

This rare skeleton of a tiny prehistoric horse was found in tact. Photo by Ellen Wright

He teaches a three-hour session to the students and he encourages them to touch the expansive collection of dinosaur replicas and rocks.

“It’s an interpretative museum,” said Roynon.

He teaches following this motto: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.”

The museum was forced to move because it was operating in a residential zone.

Jeannie Nutter, the museum’s director, feared a permanent closure, but they were able to find a suitable location.

“It was either do something, or shut down,” said Nutter.

The new space is three times as large as his current converted garage, which will allow for new exhibits.

“The only museum that will have a wall better than this, is the Field Museum (of Natural History) in Chicago,” Roynon said of his plans for the new location.

The collection is 70 years in the making. Roynon’s interest in paleontology began when he was growing up in the hills of Santa Cruz.

He found fossils there, some of which are showcased at the museum.

He’s been all over collecting fossils although new legislation eventually stopped him from continuing to dig.

Roynon said the collection has been viewed by U.S. Customs and all of the pieces have been grandfathered in to current legislation.

His collection includes pieces from the Badlands in South Dakota, China, Mongolia, England and Mexico.

Since legislation makes it difficult to get new pieces, he gets new artifacts from trade shows, including one in Tucson, Ariz.

The collection is worth $5 million.

Roynon said he’s not extremely worried about thieves because the pieces are so unique, they’d be impossible to sell.

His biggest concern is funding for the museum’s future.

“When I leave this mortal coil, I want it to be in safe hands and I want it to be in perpetuity,” Roynon said.

He hopes to raise $150,000 for relocation fees. To find out how to donate time, funds or labor visit RoynonMuseum.org.

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