“The Field Museum’s Traveling Exhibit Antarctic Dinosaurs” by S.M. O’Connor

The traveling exhibit Antarctic Dinosaurs opened at The Field Museum of Natural History on Friday, June 15, 2018 and ran through Sunday, January 6, 2019.  Part of the “Griffin Dinosaur Experience,” 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.

In a press release in July of 2016, The Field Museum announced the development of Antarctic Dinosaurs and “robust educational programming” thanks to a gift of $5,500,000 from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund, a fund created by Kenneth C. Griffin, the Founder and C.E.O. of Citadel. “We are delighted by Ken’s generous investment,” stated Richard Lariviere, Ph.D. President and C.E.O. of The Field Museum. “Over the past fifteen years, Ken has been an invaluable partner in our mission to engage and educate the public, giving more than $10.5 million to the Museum.”

Previously, in 2006, Mr. Griffin had helped The Field Museum open of The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, an interactive exhibit about dinosaurs, evolution, and environmental change. “We are incredibly fortunate to have a world-class institution like The Field Museum in Chicago,” stated Griffin. “This important institution provides visitors from around the world with unparalleled opportunities to experience and learn about our planet and its history.”

Hanging load from helicopterFigure 1 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 2 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.

“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 done 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 exhibition contains artifacts from both historical and modern expeditions, including the sledge used by one of the first Antarctic adventurers over a hundred years ago, and the thick red parkas worn by Field Museum scientists exploring Antarctica today. Visitors will get a sense of what goes into living and working in the coldest spot on earth.

“It’s an adventure story,” stated Exhibitions Operations Director Tom Skwerski, who worked on creating the exhibit with The Field Museum’s partners at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Utah Museum of Natural History, and the Discovery Place in North Carolina.  After giving visitors background on how scientists do research in Antarctica, explained Skwerski, the exhibit reveals the fruits of that research: the dinosaurs themselves.

“We’re showing real skeletons, real bones, as well as lifelike sculptures of dinosaurs set in naturalistic dioramas,” stated Dr. Makovicky. The immersive environment shows the world these animals lived in, complete with a dark sky streaked with shimmering light from the aurora australis (the southern counterpart to the Northern Lights). The exhibit features four species of dinosaur: the twenty-five-foot-long predator Cryolophosaurus (“frozen crested lizard,” named for the bony ornamentation on its head), rhinosized herbivore Glacialisaurus, and two new species that have yet to be officially scientifically described yet. These new dinosaurs are sauropodomorphs, early relatives of the giant long-necked, four-legged herbivores like Brachiosaurus and titanosaurs. The new species, however, are smaller—the littler one, a juvenile specimen, is about the size of a Labrador Retriever.

“I’m excited because we’ll be presenting dinosaurs that our visitors have never seen before and may not be familiar with, species that are new to science,” stated Skwerski. “Visitors will also get to see other ancient fossils too—plants, giant amphibians, and a huge carnivorous marine reptile called Taniwhasaurus.”

In addition to the fossils and immersive environments, Antarctic Dinosaurs also offers hands-on experiences. “It’s engaging and interactive,” stated Skwerski. “Visitors will be able to touch a piece of stone containing real fossils from Antarctica. There’s a puzzle explaining plate tectonics, how the continents fit together, and an interactive explaining polar light and the midnight sun. It’s really cool, and it helps those concepts make sense.”

Skwerski and Makovicky said they looked forward to an exhibition that highlighted The Field Museum’s paleontological work. “Dinosaurs are what the Field Museum is known for. It’s fitting that in the year of our 125th anniversary, we’re presenting something we’re so known and loved for,” stated Skwerski. “The exhibition features our scientists’ work, and we’re finding more and more fossils that we didn’t even know existed. Dinosaurs in Antarctica—it blows your mind.”

Curators and executives at other museums interested in hosting the exhibit should be aware that it requires 7,200 square feet of space and a ceiling height of twelve feet.  The text of all exhibit labels are in English and Spanish.  The graphics are designed for two languages.  If a host venue requires text in additional languages, that host venue will need to produce the translations.

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 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/.


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