Museum of Science gets to keep ‘Cliff’ the triceratops

"Cliff" has been at the Museum of Science since 2008.
"Cliff" has been at the Museum of Science since 2008.David L. Ryan/Globe staff/File/Boston Globe

Everyone at the Museum of Science would have been devastated if Cliff had lost his job.

But in the final days before the 65-million-year-old triceratops fossil was slated to pack up and leave, his coworkers were able to spare his role at the museum.

Officials there said they raised more than $850,000 in donations as part of a campaign push to keep Cliff from going “extinct” at the end of June.

“Time was ticking away for us to be able to keep Cliff here. But we went over our goal yesterday, and we are very pleased to tell folks that we went over and Cliff is here to stay,” said Jim Kraus, executive director of development at the Museum of Science.


Cliff’s remains were unearthed in the North Dakota Badlands in 2004, and later purchased at auction by a Boston resident for nearly $1 million.

The donor, whom the museum has not identified, then decided to loan Cliff to the museum in 2008. The remains are among just four nearly complete triceratops skeletons in the world.

The donor told museum curators he would be willing to part ways with the rare display if the institute could raise $850,000 — less than what he originally paid for Cliff — by June 30.

“When Cliff came to us on loan seven years ago we always hoped he would be offered to us. But what the donor offered was a bargain-sale agreement. He couldn’t afford to give him to us, but he made it a partial gift,” said Kraus.

Through the aggressive public fund-raising campaign they launched in December, called “Keep Cliff,” the museum quickly attracted both large and small donors willing to chip in for the cause.

“We have wonderful stories of students giving up their allowances and teachers raising money in their classrooms to help save Cliff,” said Kraus. “He has been adopted into the family — not only our museum family, but also the greater museum family. We have come to believe that there is enough interest in keeping Cliff here and maintaining him forevermore.”


Cliff has become somewhat of a mascot for the museum in the last seven years, attracting visitors from around the state and beyond who want to see the skeletal remains of the massive herbivore.

Because of his popularity, the museum has shirts, stuffed animals, and other dinosaur-related gifts that pay tribute to the ancient beast. Cliff also has his own Facebook and Tumblr accounts.

“People come to the museum looking for him, and we are just pleased to be able to keep him here. It would have been hard without him,” Kraus said.

The vast majority of the money raised came from eight major donors, Kraus said. Another 6,700 smaller gifts came from museum revelers and visitors who stuffed donation boxes with dollar bills at the institute’s gift shop.

An online campaign was able to procure $40,000, and at a special event at the museum last April, officials took in an additional $75,000.

The museum will use the extra money it raised — nearly $10,000 — to pay for general fossil maintenance.

Kraus said with the fund-raising phase of the project finally over, museum staff plans to celebrate this week, and reach out to the community to give thanks for the support.


“Maybe we will go down there and put a big red bow on Cliff,” he said. “Then we will proclaim that he is now permanently going to be housed and maintained here.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.