“SUE’s Private Suite Opens in Field Museum’s Evolving Planet Exhibit” by S.M. O’Connor

In one of the largest private gifts ever to one of the city’s museums, Citadel founder Kenneth C. Griffin paid to have The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois move the Tyrannosaurus rex SUE  upstairs from Stanley Field Hall to the 27,000-square-foot exhibit The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, and remount her in a more scientifically accurate way, as I wrote about in 2017.  Her new dedicated gallery is being described as a suite (as if she were a guest in a deluxe hotel) on The Field Museum’s Website and in press materials.  The observation window into the new SUE gallery in Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet was closed September 4-7, 2018, and opened on Friday, December 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, a touchable cast of the biggest dinosaur yet discovered, Patagotitan mayorum, was installed in Stanley Field Hall, as part of The Field Museum’s 125th anniversary celebrations in 2018, thanks to a $16,500,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Trust.  This titanosaur cast, which stretches across 122 feet of Stanley Field Hall, has been dubbed Máximo.

yKVqNeywFigure 1 Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum Caption: This is Máximo the Titanosaur and Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group in Stanley Field Hall at The Field Museum of Natural History.

Sue in Stanley Field Hall

Figure 2 Photo Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: This is SUE as she was mounted in Stanley Field Hall.

SFHFigure 3 Photo Credit: © The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: SUE with the African Elephant Group in Stanley Field Hall in The Field Museum of Natural History.

3. Sue with SUEFigure 4 Photo Credit: The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: Fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson with SUE, the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil she discovered in 1990.

Gastralia 2Figure 5 Photo Credit: Zachary James Johnston © The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: This is how SUE’s gastralia looked on display in the exhibit Evolving Planet.

Gastralia & SUE 2Figure 6 Photo Credit: © Zachary James Johnston, The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: Field Museum scientists Pete Makovicky (left), Associate Curator of Dinosaurs, and Bill Simpson (right), Head of Geological Collections, examine a cast of one of SUE’s gastralia in Stanley Field Hall.

 

 

SUE is the subject of at least half a dozen books and the documentary Dinosaur 13: The True Tale of one of the Greatest Discoveries in History (2014).   The largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex yet discovered, SUE (Specimen FMNH PR 2081) is named after Sue Hendrickson, who found her while part of a commercial team that discovered her.  SUE – the dinosaur, not the woman – lived approximately 67,000,000 years ago during the Cretaceous Period.  She was about twenty-eight years old when she died.  When SUE’s skeleton is mounted, she is forty feet long and thirteen feet tall, which makes her the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen discovered (of thirty so far discovered).  Over 90% of SUE’s bones were discovered – 250 out of 320 known bones.  This includes her furcula (wishbone) and gastralia (a set of rib-like bones along SUE’s body that scientists theorize helped a T. rex breathe).  It took a team of six people seventeen days to remove SUE’s bones from the ground.  She was sold at auction for $8,360,000.  The Field Museum placed the winning bid with the financial support of the McDonald’s Corporation, Walt Disney World Resort, and private donors.  This was the largest sum ever paid for fossils at auction.  The fossilized bones arrived at The Field Museum encased in stone that scientists call “matrix.”  To remove that rock, The Field Museum built the glass-enclosed McDonald’s Fossil Preparation Laboratory.  The public could see paleontologists remove the rock, a process that took 25,000 man-hours, of which 3,500 man-hours were spent on the skull alone.  Her skull weighs 600 pounds and is too heavy to be displayed atop her real bones, which are capped by a cast of her skull.  People from Alaska to Dubai have seen the traveling exhibit A T. rex Named SUE, which features a full-scale cast model of SUE.

Back in 2017, The Field Museum stated in a press release, “SUE’s renovation and Patagotitan’s arrival are possible thanks to the continued support of Ken Griffin, whose gift of $16.5 million to create ground-breaking dinosaur experiences to the next level.  Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, set a new standard for the Field’s exhibitions in 2006 with his support for Evolving Planet, and is providing funding for the 2018 exhibition Antarctic Dinosaurs and accompanying dinosaur education programs.”  In a parallel press release, The Field Museum stated, “Ken Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel and a long-time supporter of The Field Museum.  He sponsored our permanent dinosaur and evolution exhibition, the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, which opened in 2006, and he’s supporting our renovation of Stanley Field Hall, as well as our Antarctic Dinosaurs exhibition, which will open in June 2018.  His generosity and commitment to making science available and accessible to the public is helping us continue to offer the best dinosaur experiences, and we’re extremely grateful to him!”

According to Forbes, Griffin is worth $9,900,000,000.  Griffin became a stock trader in 1987 while a student at Harvard University and added a satellite dish to the roof of his dorm to get real-time information.  Three years later, he founded Citadel, L.L.C., which is a hedge fund that today manages over $30,000,000,000 in assets.  In addition, he owns Citadel Securities.  Mr. Griffin was #45 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans in 2018.  He has donated approximately $700,000,000, including $300,000,000 to non-profits in Chicago.  Griffin recently donated $12,000,000 to the Chicago Park District to divide the Lakefront Trail into separate walking and biking paths, as the Chicago Sun-Times related.

“The Field Museum has a huge impact on our ability to understand and appreciate dinosaurs.  I’m thrilled to partner with such an extraordinary institution to help put natural wonders like SUE and Patagotitan on display for the city of Chicago and its visitors,” stated Ken Griffin.

In response to a Field Museum tweet about Titanosaur statistics, movie star Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, Jurassic World,), daughter of actor-director Ron Howard, tweeted, “The Titanosaur may be taking SUE’s current place in Stanley Field Hall, but the T. Rex remains top spot in my book!”[1]

SUE’s new home is within the museum’s Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, which, along with Máximo the Titanosaur and the newly reimagined Stanley Field Hall, is part of the Griffin Dinosaur Experience and was funded by the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund. The new suite is 5,100 square feet—bigger than a professional basketball court—and packed with interactive displays that show what scientists have learned about SUE over the years. A narrated light show highlights specific bones on SUE’s skeleton, revealing everything from healed broken ribs to a jaw infection that might have ultimately killed the dinosaur.

Sue’s new gallery was formerly a movie theater.  The 3D film Waking the T. rex 3D: The Story of SUE, which D3D Cinema and The Field Museum debuted at The Field Museum’s 3D Theater on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 and played through Sunday, December 31, 2017.  The Field Museum continues to screen the film, but in a different cinema, the James Simpson Theatre.

esny_gnaFigure 7 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: Visitors gaze at SUE’s fearsome skull in a display case before a portrait that depicts SUE as she might have looked in life.

m6hrivdsFigure 8 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: Visitors gaze at SUE’s fearsome skull. SUE’s head is detached from the rest of their mount in part because it’s the most frequently researched part of the T. rex.

c4d_urwiFigure 9 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: SUE’s new suite befits the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the world.

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Figure 10 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: Scientific updates to SUE include the placement of gastralia, a more accurate pose, and her wishbone.

frqqcnygFigure 11 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: SUE’s new suite invites guests into the fierce T. rex’s world, with animations and renderings of the environments where dinosaurs like SUE once roamed.

mwifxvl4Figure 12 Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum Caption: Changes to SUE’s mount include an added set of gastralia (belly ribs) and updates in posture to reflect what we have learned about the T. rex since she arrived in 1998.

6tk5cw0sFigure 13 Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum Caption: SUE stands proudly in her new suite during construction, located in The Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit.

1op1aafiFigure 14 Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum Caption: This picture shows SUE’s old stance and new stance side-by-side. Changes to SUE’s mount include an added set of gastralia (belly ribs) and updates in posture to reflect what we’ve learned about the T. rex since they arrived in 1998.

ko55aeysFigure 15 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: SUE’s new suite brings guests into the fierce T. rex’s world, with animations and renderings of the environments where dinosaurs like SUE once roamed.

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Figure 16 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: SUE’s new suite brings guests into the fierce T. rex’s world, with animations and renderings of the environments where dinosaurs like SUE once roamed.

be2sgttxFigure 17 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This 3D rendering of SUE’s skeleton depicts her updated posture and the addition of her gastral basket.

 

“We’re excited to finally complete our decades-long plan to put SUE in a proper scientific context alongside our other dinosaurs and offer an experience that really shows off why SUE is widely considered the greatest dinosaur fossil in the world,” stated Richard Lariviere, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of The Field Museum.

“SUE’s skeleton is so complete and so well-preserved, it’s been a treasure trove for scientists. Studying it has shown us everything from how fast T. rex would have been able to run to how quickly a baby T. rex grew up,” stated Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions. “The light effects will let us point out the details that make SUE one of the world’s most important scientific finds.”

In addition to highlighting the fossils that led to these discoveries about what it was like to be a T. rex, the new suite brings those facts to life with digital animations by Atlantic Productions projected onto six nine-foot-tall screens set up behind SUE, forming a panorama. The animations show SUE hunting an Edmontosaurus, fighting a Triceratops, and even defecating.

“It’s one thing for scientists to be able to figure out how an animal would have moved or hunted based on clues in its fossilized skeleton, but with these animations, we’re able to show our visitors what that would have actually looked like,” stated Mr. Hoogstraten. “The animations look so real, and scientists checked every detail—if you want to know how T. rex really looked and behaved in its habitat, this is probably the best way in the world to learn.”

Before the new gallery was built, SUE was displayed in the museum’s main Stanley Field Hall away from the other dinosaurs and with exhibit labels at a minimum. “When SUE was in Stanley Field Hall, a lot of people would say, ‘Aw, SUE’s smaller than I thought.’ This new gallery does a better job showing how imposing SUE would have been in real life. This is the biggest, scariest, and most impressive SUE’s ever looked,” stated Dr. Lariviere.

SUE is bigger than ever before, thanks to the addition of a set of bones that flummoxed scientists when the fossil was first found. “T. rex had a set of bones across its abdomen called gastralia—they’re like belly ribs, and they helped T. rex breathe,” stated Curator Pete Makovicky. “When SUE was discovered, scientists didn’t know exactly how the gastralia fit onto the skeleton, so they were left off. Thanks to the research we’ve been doing on SUE for the last twenty years, we now know what they were for and where they should go.”

“We can’t wait to reintroduce SUE to the world,” stated Hoogstraten. “SUE is the crown jewel of the Field’s collections, and now we’re finally showing them off the way they deserve.”

The Field Museum has over 30,000,000 artifacts and specimens.  Over 150 scientists, conservators, and collections staff members work there.

On September 16, 1893, after the closure of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), the Colombian Museum of Chicago incorporated.  A little over one month later, on October 26, 1893, Marshall Field I (1834-1906) announced he would donate $1,000,000 to the project, provided that $500,000 in cash be raised from other sources and that $2,000,000 in World’s Columbian Exposition stock (then thought to be worth ten cents on the dollar) be donated, but he later waived these conditions.   The $8,000,000 bequest Marshall Field I left what was then called the Field Columbian Museum in his will was to be divided evenly into two funds: one allotment of $4,000,000 for erecting a new building to house the institution, and a second allotment of $4,000,000 would provide an endowment.

Stanley Field, Marshall Field I’s nephew, was the eponym of Stanley Field Hall, which was originally called Central Hall.  He was the third president of The Field Museum of Natural History.  He held the post from 1908 to 1964 and also gave The Field Museum $2,000,000.  It was he who oversaw the move in 1920 from the organization’s first home, the Palace of Fine Arts (which now houses the Museum of Science and Industry) in Jackson Park to its new purposes-built home in Burnham Park.

The Field Museum is part of the Museum Campus with the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium at the northern end of Burnham Park.  The Field Museum is open every day of the year, save one (Christmas Day).  It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with the last admission at 4:00 p.m.  There are upcoming Illinois Resident Free Days.   The street address of The Field Museum is 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496.  The phone number is (312) 922-9410.  The Website is https://www.fieldmuseum.org/.

 

 

[1] The filmography of Bryce Dallas Howard also includes Spider-Man 3 (2007), Terminator Salvation (2009), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010), Pete’s Dragon (2016), Gold (2016), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), and A Dog’s Way Home (2019).  She has been married to Seth Gabel (Fringe, Salem) since 2006 and they have two children.

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