“What is the Griffin Dinosaur Experience?” by S.M. O’Connor

Citadel founder Kenneth C. Griffin underwrote, through the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund, the creation of the “Griffin Dinosaur Experience,” which is comprised of five components, at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.  Firstly, there was the de-installation of the Tyrannosaurus rex SUE in Stanley Field Hall and re-installation (in a different stance that reflects scientific knowledge gained after she was originally installed and the inclusion of her gastralia) in a new gallery in The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.  Secondly, there was the installation of Máximo, a 122-foot-long replica of a Patagotitan mayorum (pronounced pat-uh-go-tie-tan my-or-um) in Stanley Field Hall. Thirdly, there is the creation of the traveling exhibit Antarctic Dinosaurs, which opened at The Field Museum on Friday, June 15, 2018 and ran through Sunday, January 6, 2019.  [It will now go to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, where it will be on display from May January.]  Fourthly, The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet received enhancements.  Fifthly, The Field Museum developed a new dinosaur educational program.

SUE and SUE with gastraliaFigure 1 Credit: The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: This is a rendering of SUE as she looked in Stanley Field Hall in 2017, and SUE as she looks now with gastralia, and a visitor (for size comparison).

1op1aafiFigure 2 Credit: John Weinstein © The Field Museum Caption: This rendering 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.

mwifxvl4Figure 3 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.

 

SUE’s new home within the museum’s Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, is 5,100 square feet—bigger than a professional basketball court—and packed with interactive displays that show what scientists have learnt 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.

The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, which traces life from its origins to today, is home to dinosaurs ranging from tiny, birdlike Buitreraptor to seventy-two-foot long Apatosaurus. A whole new gallery was added to the dinosaur section of Evolving Planet to showcase SUE and tell the story of her life on Earth. The new exhibit space features cutting-edge multimedia technology, digital interactives, and fossils that illustrate the world SUE lived in—all in all, stated Hilary Hansen, Senior Project Manager for Capital Projects at The Field Museum, this is a state-of-the-art experience worthy of SUE.

“At 40.5 feet long, she’s the world’s biggest T. rex, but in that giant hall, people sometimes remark that she’s smaller than they expected,” explained Ms. Hansen. “By putting her in her own gallery in our Evolving Planet exhibition, she’ll be put into the proper context of her fellow dinosaurs, and she’ll dominate the room.”

“In addition to getting a new space that showcases what an amazing specimen SUE is, we’ll also be able to update the mount to reflect what we’ve learned about tyrannosaurs in the years since we first put her on display,” stated Curator Pete Makovicky. “It gives us a chance to tell a more complete story scientifically.”

The most dramatic scientific change to SUE is the addition of her gastralia—a set of bones that look like an additional set of ribs stretched across her belly. Gastralia are rarely preserved in tyrannosaurs, and scientists weren’t quite sure how to position them when SUE’s skeleton was first mounted in 2000. In the years since, research on SUE’s gastralia has illuminated their function and placement.

In a press release, The Field Museum explained, “Gastralia are also present in ancient crocodile relatives and likely originally developed as a means of defense—the network of bone protected the animals’ vulnerable bellies. But for the dinosaurs, they probably had a different purpose: facilitating breathing. Dinosaurs, like their modern bird relatives, had lungs comprised of an intricate network of airsacs. And instead of having a muscular diaphragm to help push air in and out of their lungs like we do, they used the structural support provided by their gastralia to get the job done.”

The addition of SUE’s gastralia changed her look. “T. rex had a bulging belly—it wasn’t sleek and gazelle-like the way you might think from looking at SUE now without her gastralia,” explained Dr. Makovicky. “We’ll also update her body stance, so she’ll be walking rather than skulking, her arms will come down a little, and we’ll readjust her wishbone.”

 

6tk5cw0sFigure 4 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.

5. sue in 3d the theaterFigure 5 Credit: The Field Museum Caption: 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 6 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 7 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 8 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: SUE’s new suite befits the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the world.

aoljl2fwFigure 9 Credit: Martin Baumgaertner © The Field Museum Caption: Scientific updates to SUE include the placement of gastralia, a more accurate pose, and her wishbone.

frqqcnygFigure 10 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.

Máximo

      The new dinosaur cast was made from the fossilized bones of Patagotitan mayorum (pat-uh-go-tie-tan my-or-um), a giant, long-necked herbivore from Argentina that is part of a group of dinosaurs called titanosaurs. From snout to tail, it stretches 122 feet long, longer than two accordion CTA buses end-to-end. It is so tall that visitors on The Field Museum’s second-floor balcony (twenty-eight feet above the floor) can come eye-to-eye with the creature cast, which is situated near Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group in Stanley Field Hall. Visitors can touch the titanosaur cast and walk underneath it.

“The titanosaur is huge, and it’ll look right at home in Stanley Field Hall,” stated Ms. Hansen. “It’s a big, majestic space, which will be the perfect backdrop for the world’s largest dinosaur.”  The Stanley Field Hall cast is the only Patagotitan in the world that visitors are able to touch and only the second to ever be on display.

Long-time Field Museum paleontologist and Head of Geological Collections Bill Simpson notes that Stanley Field Hall has always been a dynamic, ever-changing space. “I’ve worked at the Field since 1979, and I’ve seen Stanley Field Hall undergo a lot of changes in that time,” stated Simpson. “When I started, we had a tyrannosaur in Stanley Field Hall, the Daspletosaurus that’s now in Evolving Planet. In the mid-nineties, we replaced it with the Brachiosaurus cast that’s now on the terrace outside the Museum, and in 2000 we welcomed SUE. There’s always a lot of change in that space as we find new ways to share our science with the public.” Plus, he added, while SUE’s new, bulkier appearance might take some getting used to, “That’s the way science works—we’re always making new discoveries.”

Máximo arrived at The Field Museum in two trucks on Monday, May 21, 2018.  Assembly began two days later.  He was nearly completed by May 25th and installation of the pterosaurs began the next week.

 

 

Titanosaur and SUEFigure 11 Credit: The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: This is a rendering of a visitor looking at the Patagotitan mayorum cast and SUE (mounted with her gastralia) in a way that will never happen in Stanley Field Hall.  The discoverers of the Patagotitan mayorum recently gave it that name.  Originally, it was identified by its clade, as a Titanosaur.  Here, we see by exactly how many feet SUE dwarfs a man when her fossilized skeleton was re-mounted with her gastralia and the Patagotitan mayorum dwarfs a man and would dwarf SUE if the three were lined up as if the man was a traffic warden.

Titanosaur castFigure 12 Photo Credit: A. Otero Caption: Full, 122-foot-long cast of a Titanosaur skeleton in an airplane hangar in Argentina. This photo is courtesy of Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (M.E.F.) via The Field Museum.

ykvqneywFigure 13 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: These are Máximo the Titanosaur, a Quetzalcoatlus (suspended from the ceiling), and Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group in Stanley Field Hall at The Field Museum of Natural History.

 

In January of 2018, The Field Museum announced that the 122-foot-long titanosaur cast would be joined by a flock of life-sized casts of flying reptiles and state-of-the-art hanging gardens.  The installation of the titanosaur and pterosaurs (flying reptile) casts in 2018 was one of the ways The Field Museum celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation. At the time The Field Museum made this announcement, they anticipated SUE’s new gallery would open in the spring of 2019, but ultimately it opened in December of 2018.

“Our goal as an institution is to offer visitors the best possible dinosaur experiences, and we want that to start right when visitors first enter Stanley Field Hall,” says Field Museum President Lariviere. “The new hanging gardens and the flock of pterosaurs will take our visitors back to the age of the dinosaurs and will complement the new titanosaur.”

“Visiting The Field Museum has brought tremendous joy and wonder to my children and me over the years,” stated Ken Griffin. “I am proud to support such an outstanding institution so that children and families can better understand and appreciate dinosaurs and their history.”

Please note that pterosaurs were flying reptiles, but, technically speaking, they were not dinosaurs.  The placement of the pterosaurs, suspended from the ceiling, makes them, in part wayfinding tools that make it easier for museum visitors to find The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.

“The pterosaurs are nothing short of amazing,” stated the aforementioned Senior Exhibitions Project Manager Hilary Hansen. “Since Stanley Field Hall is such a massive room, we had the opportunity to add a titanosaur and an entire flock of pterosaurs. It’ll really transform the space.”

“We worked closely with the company that built them, Blue Rhino, to make sure that the pterosaurs were scientifically accurate,” stated the aforementioned Bill Simpson. “They look wonderful. They’re really colorful and will capture people’s imaginations.”

The pterosaur replicas include nine hawk-sized Rhamphorhynchus (ram-foh-RINK-us), two Pteranodon (teh-RAN-oh-don) with eighteen-foot-wingspans, and two giant Quetzalcoatlus (ket-zal-co-AHT-lus), which could spread their wings stretch thirty-five feet. [For context, thirty-five feet is about the length of a bus. It’s also about the length of SUE.]   In addition to the Pterosaurs, Stanley Field Hall also now features state-of-the-art hanging gardens.

Blue Rhino Studio used molds to cast the fiberglass creatures, which were hand-painted.  Some had pycnofibers.  These are filaments similar to hair.

The flock of thirteen pterosaurs arrived at The Field Museum on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.  The largest of these fiberglass flying lizards is the Quetzalcoatlus, two of which were suspended from the ceiling by May 31st.  Each weigh 500 pounds and have a thirty-five-foot-long wingspan.  Comparatively smaller Pteranodons have headcrests and each weigh ninety pounds.  The smallest fiberglass flying lizards are the nine Rhamphorhynchus replicas.  Each one weighs just ten pounds but these creatures had fearsome teeth.

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Figure 14 Credit: Blue Rhino Studio Caption: Blue Rhino Studio used molds to cast the fiberglass creatures, which were hand-painted.  This is a Pteranodon replica being painted.

_gsx1euqFigure 15 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: The largest of these fiberglass flying reptiles is the Quetzalcoatlus.  This is a head and neck from a Quetzalcoatlus replica.

d73bg9aqFigure 16 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: The largest of these fiberglass flying reptiles is the Quetzalcoatlus.  This is a body of a Quetzalcoatlus.

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Figure 17 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: This is a Pteranodon replica being brought into The Field Museum.

m5bwioiqFigure 18 Credit: Michelle Kuo, The Field Museum Caption: In this ominous corner of the second-floor balcony, we see a standing Quetzalcoatlus replica.

uj8wyphaFigure 19 Credit: Michelle Kuo, The Field Museum Caption: Here, we see a Quetzalcoatlus, Máximo, the African Elephant Group, and, in the distance, the hanging gardens, the largest of which is not yet hanging.

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Figure 20 Credit: Michelle Kuo, The Field Museum Caption: This seems to be a picture of a Quetzalcoatlus replica being suspended from the ceiling.  Two Rhamphorhynchus replicas are already suspended from the ceiling.

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Figure 21 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: These are Máximo the Titanosaur, a Quetzalcoatlus (suspended from the ceiling), the African Elephant Group, and the hanging gardens in Stanley Field Hall at The Field Museum of Natural History.

The Hanging Gardens

      Architect Daniel Pouzet and Field Museum Design Director Àlvaro Amat co-designed the hanging gardens, which are the first of their kind.  Branch Technology used 3D printing technology to make the plastic “clouds,” which contain more than 1,000 living plants.  They are also light fixtures.

The four garden structures, the largest of which is thirty-five feet across, are suspended from Stanley Field Hall’s ceiling and can be lowered to the ground during special events.  The plants themselves are hydroponic, growing in inert volcanic rock and receiving water and fertilizer from the ceiling.

“These gardens are the first of their kind, and we worked to find plants that will thrive and were inspired by plants living during the time of the dinosaurs: ferns, cycads, and arum plants,” says Hansen. “The plants make the hall come alive –they look beautiful and underscore our mission to study and preserve the natural world. They’ll break up the imposing scale of Stanley Field Hall and soften its hard materials, making it a welcoming place to sit and enjoy nature.”

The hanging gardens were also installed in May of 2018.  Automatic watering and “grow lights” allow the plants to grow indoors.  The largest cloud weighs 15,000 pounds.  It has thirteen layers of ferns, cycads, and arum plants.  Lines that run down from the ceiling bring the plants water and nutrients.  The plants are exposed to both real sunlight through a glass ceiling and the aforementioned grow lights.

 

git486wgFigure 22 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: The hanging gardens are suspended from the ceiling of Stanley Field Hall at the opposite end from where Máximo and the African Elephant Group stand and over one of the areas where visitors purchase tickets.

Hanging load from helicopter

Figure 23 Credit: © The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: A helicopter is airlifting a fossil-bearing rock back to camp. The temporary exhibit Antarctic Dinosaurs was open at The Field Museum from June 15, 2015 through January 6, 2019.  Now, it will become a traveling exhibit.

Pete & Nate in quarry

Figure 24 Credit: © The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: Paleontologists Peter (“Pete”) Makovicky, Ph.D., and Nathan (“Nate”) Smith, Ph.D., removing blocks of fossil-bearing rock containing Cryolophosaurus bones from Mount Kirkpatrick quarry during a 2010-2011 expedition in Antarctica.

The traveling exhibit Antarctic Dinosaurs opened at The Field Museum on Friday, June 15, 2018 and ran through Sunday, January 6, 2019.  While there, it complimented The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, but now it is to become a traveling exhibit that will now go to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, where it will be on display from Thursday, May 23, 2019 through Sunday, January 5, 2020.  Then, it will go on display at Discovery Place in Charlotte, North Carolina from February 8, 2020 through May 25, 2020.  Next, it will go on display at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City from June 27, 2020 through January 3, 2021.

The Field Museum developed the exhibit in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Discovery Place, and the Natural History Museum of Utah.  It features over 115 fossils, full-scale replicas, and touchable models; nine mechanical and digital interactives; and four large media elements. The content specialists are Dr. Peter Makovicky, Curator at The Field Museum; Dr. Nathan D. Smith, Associate Curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; and a group of scientists from Augustana College, the University of Washington, the University of Alberta, and the Iziko South African Museum.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for people to see and discover fossils from Antarctica and what they tell us about Earth’s history,” stated the aforementioned curator Pete Makovicky, who has undertaken extensive fieldwork in Antarctica. “We want visitors to feel like they’re traveling to Antarctica, give them a historical perspective on scientific expeditions, and then take them back in time, as well as show them some of the newest and coolest discoveries in paleontology.”

“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 the titanosaur on display for the city of Chicago and its visitors,” stated Griffin.  On Thursday, September 13, 2018, The Field Museum announced a $250,000,000 fundraising campaign, “Because Earth,” and that Mr. Griffin’s gifts were being counted as early donations in this fundraising campaign.

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 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.   Originally, the Field Columbian Museum was housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, which had temporarily housed an art museum at the World’s Columbian Exposition‘s White City fairgrounds.  The $8,000,000 bequest Marshall Field I left 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/.

 

 

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