DC – The Closing of the Smithsonian’s Dinosaur Hall

Leave a comment

April 25, 2014 by Dr. G

DSCN3335First, it was the closing of the Life in the Ancient Seas Exhibit (see my blog post from August 2013 – and as you can see in the image to the left, the exhibit that opened on May 18, 1990, finally closed on October 21, 2013).  And now, it feels like an entire book is about to close at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).  On Monday, April 28, The National Fossil Hall (affectionately referred to as the Dinosaur Hall) at the Smithsonian will close to visitors and not be seen again until 2019.  The reason?  Below is text from a sign at the museum that explains why.

“Since we last renovated the fossil hall in the early 1980s, scientific understanding of our planet’s history – and our place in it – has changed.  We’re redesigning our halls to feature the latest science, showcase some of our 46 million fossils, and create an exceptional experience for visitors like you.

“We’re dismantling our specimens, conserving each bone, and re-mounting the fossils to display them according to current scientific knowledge.”

This all makes perfect sense to me.  With so many significant and important fossil specimens on display, museum scientists need to pay careful attention to everything from the vibrations generated from visitors walking by the dinosaur mounts to the fluctuating humidity levels in the museum (especially with the hall right off the main entrance).  And then, there is always the fact that science keeps changing, and new knowledge means that new and updated displays need to be created.  Although I can’t count the number of times I have roamed the National Fossil Hall myself, and the number of times I have taken students to see this spectacular collection, I knew I wanted to see the dinosaurs one final time before the exhibit closed.

So here I am, three days before the exhibit shuts its doors for good, and I’m in DC to see to see the dinosaurs.  It’s not that I needed to take more photos of these displays (I have hundreds of images already – thank goodness for digital cameras!).  Maybe I just want to be able to say “I was there” right before the hall closed.  Maybe I’m afraid of forgetting what this collection looked like, since it will be five more years until I see any dinosaurs again in DC.  Although I was looking for one last moment with my dinosaur friends, it turned out to be one loud and intensely crowded moment with 1,000 of my friends!  (OK, the dinosaur hall probably can’t fit that many people at once, but wow, was it packed!)

I was only able to capture a few photos today (OK, so I took 70).  Here are some of the ones I wish to share:

The last time I will walk through the main entrance way to the fossil hall and see this view.

The last time I will walk through the main entrance way to the fossil hall and see this view.

My Nittany Lion, with the Stegosaurus "road kill"

My Nittany Lion, with the Stegosaurus “road kill.”

The Allosaurus, with the evidence of broken bones that re-healed.

The Allosaurus, with the evidence of broken bones that re-healed.

Just me and the Diceratops!

Just me and the Diceratops!

OK, the Triceratops Hatcher is certainly one of my favorites, too, but I had no chance of getting a clear shot of him today (be sure to check out this Smithsonian story about the scanning and building of Hatcher!).  I think one of the specimens that has the most fascinating story is the Diceratops you see in the selfie to the left (check out his complicated history in this Smithsonian Magazine article).

I was disappointed to see that the Smithsonian had already removed some of the specimens that were in display cases against the walls.  And the stairs up to the flying reptile exhibit was already closed off for construction.  I was hoping to have one last view from on top of the dinosaur hall, but I wasn’t able to have that chance.  The giant BIF was also removed, and it is sad to think that perhaps some of these beautiful murals in the fossil hall may never be seen again.

If the Smithsonian no longer wants this, I'm sure I can find a spot on my classroom wall for this beautiful Archean landscape!

If the Smithsonian no longer wants this, I’m sure I can find a spot on my classroom wall for this stromatolite-filled Archean landscape!

So what is the good news in all of this?  Yes, the Smithsonian will have updated scientific and educational displays in five years.  Yes, the Smithsonian will now be home to what is being called the “Nation’s T. rex” – who has already had his first Twitter chat (in fact, he has been incredibly active on social media at @NMNH – smart move for the Smithsonian).  And the Smithsonian has been very good at engaging people in the existing hall up to the last minute, encouraging people to take selfies and submit them to the Fossil Hall Fotorama, and final weekend Dino Film Fest.  Once the hall closes on Monday, visitors will have to go across the hall to check out The Rex Room to see how the Nation’s T. rex is being studied, conserved, and mounted.  If you want to learn more about the journey of the Nation’s T. rex from the Museum of the Rockies to Washington DC (yes, it came via FedEx), check out this Smithsonian Magazine story.

In the meantime, I’ll keep checking out the website for The National Fossil Hall and The Rex Room for updates.  We can always hope that the Wankel T. rex doesn’t leave us waiting for five years to make an appearance!

 

I took advantage of my last chance to see the Fossil Hall... sorry, historical geology students!  Maybe we can have a reunion in five years to see the opening of the new hall!

I took advantage of my last chance to see the Fossil Hall… sorry, historical geology students! Maybe we can have a reunion in five years to see the opening of the new hall!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Follow me on Instagram

Wrapping up my @scienceathon week by wrapping up in my favorite blanket and drinking hot chocolate out of my favorite mug from @earthandstate. It's been a great week of communicating some of who I am, what I do, and the great community I am a part of. I hope I have been able to help others learn more about me - an #actuallivingscientist, a part of #womeninstem, always looking for ways to connect Earth science to the non-science community, whether it be through #sciart or #EarthScienceWeek or documentary screenings on campus like #thehumanelementmovie. ************************************ #dayofscience #weekofscience #earthsciencewomensnetwork #ESWN #octopus #hotchocolate ************************************** If you enjoyed following my week, please consider donating to my crowdrise page for the @scienceathon, where donations benefit the amazing organization ESWN (Earth Science Women's Network). https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/science-a-thon-2018/lauraguertin
Yes, the @scienceathon is officially over - but I'm not finished yet! Today is a big day for me, as this is the second year the @psubrandywine Sustainovation Club (@sustainpsubw) students are leading an educational outreach activity at the @tylerarboretum Pumpkin Days Fall Festival. This year, the students decided to focus on teaching kids about conserving energy at home, showcase various renewable energy sources (such as wind power), emphasized the benefits of planting native plants and going outside, then helping kids create their own pinwheels. The last table at our station asked visitors to state how they will go home and make better efforts to conserve energy. This year's Sustainability Research Station was a great combination of education and hands-on fun! I'm so proud of the 19 students that came out today to make a difference in the community. #sustainovation #weare #wearepennstate #nittanylion #mascot #education #outreach #dayofscience #weekofscience #actuallivingscientist #womeninstem
Big event today! We unveiled winners of our 1st-ever @PSUBrandywine #EarthScienceWeek photo contest! See how the #EarthAsInspiration theme was used with @adobe products. Thanks Matt Bodek & @psulibs #VairoLibrary 4organizing w/me! @scienceathon #dayofscience #weekofscience @vairolibrarypsu #photocontest
Piling up the boxes and bins this morning outside of my office this morning for an early pick from the campus maintenance department. I'm so lucky to have such supportive services across the campus that come together as a team for our outreach events. Maintenance will be bring all of this stuff (minus the fire extinguisher!) and some folding tables over to one of our community partners, @tylerarboretum, so we can participate in their Pumpkin Days Fall Festival on Saturday! (and yes, I'm sporting last year's @scienceathon t-shirt!) #dayofscience #weekofscience #actuallivingscientist #womeninstem #logisticslogisticslogistics #whatfacultydo
Lunch at 3PM, because my marathon day of teaching/meetings doesn’t take a break during the @scienceathon! #dayofscience #weekofscience #whitepizza @pennstatebwcampusliving
%d bloggers like this: