Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Rex Room

Where:  Natural History Museum

When: through October 20, 2014

Since I went to see The Rex Room, I've been trying to think what I might find worse than having to do my job while thousands of strangers gawked at me through a glass wall.  I suppose having no job at all would be worse, but being on display like an animal at the zoo is plenty bad.

My brother and sister-in-law are both scientists, and they tell me that paleontology is the glamor field.  All the money and attention flows in its direction, so I guess having to be on display is the price those who study dinosaurs pay for fame and fortune.  Still, I was happy to return to my backwater library when my lunch hour was over - able to work my research magic far from prying eyes.

As I suppose I should have mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Natural History Museum has just taken possession of a T. Rex.  When the dinosaur hall re-opens in 2019 (which seems like forever from now), it will be the star of the show, but at the moment, it's a long way from being ready for its close-up.  The scientists on display are cataloging and studying each piece of the skeleton prior to shipping it to Toronto to be mounted.

Some background on the T. Rex, in case you've not been following this story, 66.5 million years ago, this dinosaur died, near a river in what is now Montana.  River sediment covered the carcass and over the years (many, many years) the sediment turned to stone, encasing the T. Rex.  In 1988 Kathy Wankel, a Montana rancher, was hiking, and spotted a bone protruding from the earth.  She brought it to the Museum of the Rockies, who took a lively interest in her discovery.  It took them two years to fully excavate it, and on April 15, 2014, it arrived in a FedEx truck at the Natural History Museum.

This fossil has already provided information to researchers on dinosaur growth, life span and reproduction, and the hope is that it will yield answers to even more questions.  Like: why did T. Rexs have such little arms?

Verdict: I felt a little guilty staring at the scientists, but their work is interesting.  Starting next week, this will be on the only dinosaur on display, so join the line and gawk away.

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