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T. rex Turns 100

 

The Tyrannosaurus rex at Carnegie Museum of Natural History is famous. It is the first "type" specimen used to identify the species, and for most of the 20th century it was considered the largest carnivore known to have lived on Earth. And this year it is celebrating its 100th birthday.

 

While the real T. rex lived about 65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period, its life as a modern museum exhibit, and as an icon of modern life began just 100 years ago. Today there are still only a half dozen fairly complete real T. rex fossil skeletons, even though replicas in museums are common.

 

The fossil bones of the T-rex type specimen were collected in Hell Creek, Montana, in 1902-03 by a field party led by Barnum Brown, a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Only partially mounted for display in New York, in 1941 the fossil material came to Pittsburgh as part of a museum exchange of fossil materials.

 

In 1941 the cost of $7,000 for selling the specimen to Pittsburgh included reimbursement of the original excavation costs of $2,200. Shipment to Pittsburgh by tractor-trailor cost an additional $108. But a generous trustee and friend of the Carnegie Museum, George H. Clapp, underwrote the costs.

 

Under director Andrew Avinoff, Carnegie Museum of Natural History promptly mounted the complete T. rex for display in 1942. The skeleton is scheduled to be remounted as part of the museum's plan for a new Hall of Dinosaurs.

 

 

DinoMite Days

 

Pittsburgh will be taken back to a fanciful age of dinosaurs during DinoMite Days, when different dinosaur designs will transform city streets, office buildings and local gardens into a wonderful outdoor public art exhibit.

 

Approved as a public art project by the Pittsburgh Art Commission, DinoMite Days will be the most colorful, widespread display of local artistry the region has ever seen. Using a grant from the Laurel Foundation of Pittsburgh, the museum will produce a series of realistic but undecorated dinosaur models that artists can turn into playful works of art. After a display, there will be an auction where sponsors can adopt the artistic dinosaurs for permanent display in different parts of the city. The proceeds will benefit non-profit organizations in Pittsburgh. Each dinosaur will have a plaque indicating the name of the "sponsaur" and artist.

 

The concept is based on the successful public art project called Cow Parade, first introduced in Zurich, Switzerland, and soon successfully adopted in New York, Chicago and several other North American cities. While cities have used cows, moose and horses, in Pittsburgh dinosaurs are a natural choice because of the preeminence of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in its research on dinosaurs. Dinosaurs appeal to people of all ages.

 

Research Casting International of Toronto, which created the Dippy statue outside the museum, will design, manufacture and deliver the fiberglass dinosaurs in sizes ranging between 5.5 and 10 feet. Next an art jury comprised of representatives from Pittsburgh art organizations will select the artists, who will have approximately four to six weeks to complete their dinosaurs, and will receive an honorarium when their dinosaur is completed and approved. At the end of the public display period, the dinosaurs back to DinoMite Days for a scheduled auction on October 4, 2003.

Sponsors can select a beneficiary to receive a percentage of the proceeds from the donated dinosaurs. The remaining proceeds will benefit Carnegie Museum of Natural History's public and educational programs. At the auction, "We expect everyone will have a great time while we raise a lot of money for many of the region's cultural groups and organizations," says DeWalt.

 

As a playful way of shining an international spotlight on the region, DinoMite Days should benefit many local businesses. Chicago's "Cows on Parade" attracted an estimated 10 million visitors to the city and added $200 million to the local economy.

 

Organizations wishing to become DinoMite Days "sponsaurs" can contact Chris Bell, Carnegie Museum of Natural History Director of Development at (412) 622-5778 beginning July 1. Or visit http://www.dinomite days.org

 

 

Coming to Pittsburgh

 

The Most Complete T-rex Skull in the World

What will the most complete T-rex skull in the world reveal? It's hard to say. But audiences at Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be among the first to know.

 

There are perhaps 10 skulls of T-rex in the world, and this new one, discovered recently in South Dakota, has been called by experts the best T-rex skull in existence. Unlike others, it was not distorted or disarticulated after being buried in an ancient river bed some 67-70 million years ago.

 

Some 40-50 percent of the skeleton has been found, and the rest of the specimen is being removed from the stone by expert Phil Fraley in New Jersey. But the owner of the specimen wanted the skull itself to be prepared at Carnegie Museum of Natural History because of the museum's reputation as the Home of the Dinosaurs.

 

Curator Mary Dawson says it is hard to predict what new information will be discovered until the skull is prepared. We know that T-rex had binocular (three-dimensional) vision because of the position of its eyes, and that it had large spaces for its olfactory lobes, suggesting it had a powerful sense of smell and was perhaps therefore a scavenger. Scientists now think that its nostrils were in a more forward position, like a snake's, than the early reconstruction suggested. There is more to be learned about its brain cavity, the back part of its skull, and its palate.

 

Collected by a commercial group, the specimen was sold to a private collector who wants to put it to educational use as a traveling exhibit, and share it with people who would otherwise never see the real thing. Carnegie Museum of Natural History will make a cast of it for its own collection.

 

Still embedded in about a half-ton of stone matrix, the skull will be on display at the museum's PaleoLab in October. The public can witness its preparation for approximately 10 months, before the mold is made and a cast is produced.

 

 

Shanghai visits Pittsburgh

Six Chinese experts from the huge Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (SSTM) being built in China's largest city recently visited Carnegie Museum of Natural History to study its educational programs and dinosaur displays. The new SSTM is part of China's national plan to revitalize the country through science and education, and combines Shanghai's older Natural History Museum with the technology of a new Science Center. The size of 13 football fields, at a cost of about $170 million, it contains two IMAX theaters, an IWERKS theater, a "Wisdom Gallery," a "Life Gallery," and other features that reveal similarities and contrasts between Eastern and Western approaches to education. Powdermill Nature Reserve and Carnegie Science Center were also visited by the Shanghai delegation, and in the fall, the Natural History Museum will send advisors to Shanghai.

 

 

 

 

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