BOZEMAN (AP) -- The Museum of the Rockies is becoming a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, giving the museum greater access to Smithsonian collections, programs and expertise.

Lawrence Small, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, is expected to be in Bozeman on Aug. 11 for a ceremony to honor the museum with its new status.

''The Museum of the Rockies performs a vital public service for the people of Montana and visitors throughout the region," Small said. ''We look forward to strengthening the relationship between our institutions to expand and enhance that service."

The Smithsonian's affiliations program permits the long-term loan of artifacts. Affiliate museums can also take advantage of the Smithsonian's outreach programs for curriculum development at local schools, lectures, traveling exhibitions, study tours and other programs. The Smithsonian also shares its staff expertise in areas of conservation, care of collections and exhibition development.

The Museum of the Rockies was created in 1957 as the gift from Butte physician Caroline McGill to the people of Montana. It is Montana's premier natural and cultural history museum and houses permanent exhibits on dinosaurs, geology and Montana history, as well as a planetarium and a living history farm.

''We have enjoyed our relationship with the Smithsonian for many years and are very excited to build upon this strong foundation," said museum dean and director Sheldon McKamey.

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Jack Horner, the museum's curator of paleontology, is a senior scholar of vertebrate paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Affiliations has established partnerships with 142 museums and cultural institutions since it was established in 1997. The Western Heritage Center in Billings and the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum are also Smithsonian affiliates, according to the Smithsonian Web site.

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