2023 was a year of notable moments for Morden's Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC), according to executive director. Adolfo Cuetara, following the organization's annual general meeting. 

This includes the opening of the highly anticipated 1,000 sq. ft. field and research station tucked away on 110 acres of land in the Manitoba Escarpment.
"We were able to start to work with dig tours at the end of July. So, it was only one month, in August, with dig tours last year," explained Cuetara, noting that month was a bit of a test. "It was great because 75 people came for a dig tour. All of the people were giving us very good reviews and half of them, I would say, are expecting to come back again this year."

Adding to its arsenal, the CFDC also acquired a 3D system. From this, staff were able to reconstruct a quadrate fossil to fill in a missing part of the famous Bruce the Mosasaur. Additionally, they scanned, printed and began reconstructing the skull of the specimen type of mosasaur, Tylosaurus Pembinensis, which belongs to the Miami Museum, and it is currently on loan at the CFDC for this special project. 

The enhancements were all purchased using $67,595 from the federal Canada Cultural Spaces Fund (Department of Canadian Heritage / Government of Canada), $62,075 courtesy the Provincial Building Sustainable Communities Program together with $6,600 coming from the Signature Museums Endowment Fund, plus other CFDC funds for a total investment of $139,723. Without this support, and from the City of Morden, Cuetara says it would be impossible to make improvements like this. 

Additionally, the CFDC welcomed a record 13,500 visitors in 2023. This, noted Cuetara, translated into record revenues through admissions, the sale of merchandise and programming. 

It's results like this that Cuetera says motivate him every day. 

"If this would be a job with the same thing every year, a routine, that's not my thing. I need challenges, continuous challenges. If not, it would be so boring."

One of those challenges is ongoing inflation which Cuetara says is chipping away at the museum's operational budget every year. 

"Even though we are improving our numbers, it's not enough to keep the growing expenses that we have," he explained, adding the CFDC isn't spending one dollar on something that isn't absolutely necessary. Part of the issue, added Cuetara, is that government grants can only be used for projects or purchases, not to offset an organization's operational budget. 

The biggest challenge of all, however, is moving out of the Access Event Centre's basement and into a new, $60 million stand-alone facility. According to Cuetara, everything they are doing at the CFDC is to increase visitation and create a solid business case for such. 

"We really need to get out of the basement, and Morden and the community really needs this. It's going to be an incredible asset for Southern Manitoba," said Cuetara. 

He cited a tourism assessment put together by Travel Manitoba in 2023 that calculated the average tourist spends $150 in the community they visit. With the 13,500 people that visited CFDC last year, Cuetara says that adds up to $1.5 million tourism dollars going back into the local economy. In fact, just last month the who's who of paleontology from across the World gathered in Morden as the CFDC played host to the Association for Materials & Methods in Paleontology's (AMMP) week-long 15th annual meeting. 

With files from Robyn Wiebe