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Dino museum makes executive director job offer

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The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is one step away from having a new executive director. Former CEO George Jacob left in October 2016, and the museum said it was on a hiring freeze until at least 2017.

Chairman of the River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur Museum Society Tim Powell says the board always intended to hire a replacement, and they made an offer to a candidate Wednesday. He adds they didn’t want to rush the process.

“And the winter months are quiet, so let’s keep our budget in line,” Powell explains. “The last director did a fantastic job of putting the displays and everything together, but as far as the fundraising side, this new person, we’re really going to push them into, ‘you gotta bring the bucks in.'”

With Assistant Curator Derek Larson in place and University of Alberta paleontologist Corwin Sullivan coming to work out of the lab during the summer, Powell stresses the new executive director’s focus will be on attracting more people to the museum and ramping up fundraising.

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What used to be one of the museum’s biggest fundraisers, the Amber Ball, has seen its impact dwindle over the past couple of years. The 2016 event brought in $7,000 in ticket sales and $25,000 through a raffle, when the 2014 ball brought in $350,000.

Powell says they’re making major changes to this year’s event to try make it more affordable and attract a bigger crowd.

“The economy’s been tougher, so we’ve changed it a bit; we’re moving it into town. We had quite a few expenses like catering expenses, because we wanted it to be high end, so we brought in a lot of expensive stuff. We’re not going to do that this year; we’re going to leave it up to the hotel to furnish it and make it look right.”

The board has also been going through their budget with a fine tooth comb, finding ways to cut down on costs. For instance, the new executive director won’t have an assistant and they’re not hiring a new manager for the gift shop. They also cut $99,000 by using the same staff for janitorial and maintenance.

Powell says over the first three months of the year, they came in $170,000 under budget. The projected budget for the year is still $1.8 million, but Powell says they’d like to come in under that as well. The County of Grande Prairie had to step in and give the museum $300,000 at the end of last year to cover its bills.

Another way the museum society is trying to get into the black is by changing its way of marketing. Powell says they are going to leave national and international markets alone, and instead focus on people in B.C. and Alberta.

“If we go to New York to promote the museum and spend $10,000, and four people from New York stop in and give us $60 for admission, we could spend that $10,000 in Alberta and have 10,000 people show up.”

If anyone interested hasn’t been to the museum yet, Powell suggests coming by in July. Sullivan will be here on his endowment doing research and digging, and Philip J. Currie himself is expected to make the trip up as well.

More than 120,000 people visited the museum in its first year, and each month of 2017 has seen attendance increase. June 24th is this year’s community day, with free admission to the museum and gallery.

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