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New exhibit to introduce some fearsome new friends

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Published on May 22, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B3

Along the Charles River, eight workers have spent the past two weeks trying to bring dinosaurs back to life.

Eight trucks arrived at the Museum of Science two weeks ago, packed with dinosaur tracks, skeletons, and other artifacts that will make up the museum’s newest exhibit. The exhibit, called “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries,” which will also include life-size mechanized dinosaurs, is scheduled to open June 5.

“We’ve got a really good start on the more structural aspects of the exhibit, and now we’re really getting into finishing up details and getting everything prepped for the artifacts to be installed,” said Shana Hawrylchak, a senior temporary exhibit coordinator for the museum.

The exhibit, which helps explain how dinosaurs walked, traveled, and formed herds, has been put up at museums across the country over the past six years.

It first opened in 2005 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and is based on research by several of its paleontologists.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a few years now,” said Paul Fontaine, vice president of education at the Museum of Science. “What’s really exciting about this exhibit is that everybody knows about dinosaurs, but this exhibit has a lot of new information.”

The range of information is presented through replicas of dinosaur skeletons, mechanical dinosaurs, and an array of artifacts, images, and videos.

“I think one of the things that makes an exhibit like this challenging is it has a lot of different aspects to it,” Hawrylchak said.

Reconstructing the dinosaurs, each of which weighs more than 3,000 pounds, was an “elaborate process,” she said. The model skeletons arrived in sections that had to be assembled.

“We had about six or seven guys operating crank lifts and hoisting the pieces into position,” she said. Others bolted the parts together.

Currently about three-fifths of the exhibit is assembled. Four more workers will join the team this week to help set it up. A few others will focus on lighting and audiovisual aspects, said Hawrylchak.

Mark Norell was the curator of the exhibit when it opened in New York, and his research is included.

The most eye-grabbing part, he said in a phone interview from the American Museum of Natural History, is the diorama room, which shows dinosaurs in their natural environment by recreating what northeast China looked like 130 million years ago.

“The first thing you notice is it looks like a forest today,” said Norell, who is also the chairman and curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “The animals are a little peculiar, but at the same time are a little familiar.”

Hawrylchak and her crew have been working on creating the detailed room for the past week. So far they have completed the structure. This week, they will add foliage and insects.

The exhibit will run until Aug. 21 and will be free with Exhibit Halls admission.

Fontaine predicted that it will have wide appeal.

“Kids are going to love it because of things like the mechanical dinosaurs,” he said. “But even for me to stand next to an accurate, full-size Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton – it makes you kind of glad you live now and not 65 million years ago.”

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Written by jdunccc

May 22, 2011 at 10:02 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

Tagged with ,

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