Largest, best-preserved T. rex visits Vermont museum

by Dongjun Suh | 5/18/14 6:34pm

Entering the Montshire Museum of Science’s first floor collections, patrons on Saturday were confronted by a monster 42 feet long and 13 feet tall. They stared awestruck at its whopping 58 teeth, the longest measuring over a foot long, and shuddered to think of the destruction that the 14,000-pound beast could inflict.

Luckily, the monster has been dead for more than 65 million years.

Affectionately named Sue for the scientist who discovered her, the largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the world was unveiled this weekend at the Norwich science museum and will be on view through early September. The dinosaur is on loan from The Field Museum in Chicago.

Just getting Sue inside the galleries required tremendous effort. The museum was closed for three days, while three tractor-trailers moved about 40 crates of material inside the galleries. In total, these contents weighed about 3,000 pounds, Montshire marketing and communications director Beth Krusi said.

Sue’s skull alone weighs 600 pounds, and her skeleton includes 250 separate bones, representing a 90 percent complete sample.

“A T. rex Named Sue” is one of several visiting exhibitions that the Montshire Museum pays to loan from peer institutions each year, Krusi said. The exhibit was one of the most expensive loan acquisitions made by the museum, as it includes interactive features designed to help visitors learn more about the skeleton as well as the skeleton itself.

One feature allows visitors to look through a device and observe a simulation of how a dinosaur would view the world, she said.

“The reason we bring Sue to the museum in general is to enhance the visitor’s experience,” Krusi said. “We make sure the contents of the visiting exhibitions are ones that we don’t have in our regular ones.”

Montshire Museum director of education Greg DeFrancis said he hopes that Sue and the exhibit’s interactive features will allow families to have intelligent conversations about science topics, including evolution and climate change.

The process of selecting these visiting exhibitions is extensive and can take between two and five years to complete, Krusi said. The Montshire Museum must verify that the contents it loans are high-quality and accurate as well as unique from its permanent collections.

“Our goal is always to get visitors to engage more deeply in the scientific phenomena,” Krusi said. “It is very hard to find exhibits that stimulate conversations about what are the right questions to ask and what are the answers.”

On Saturday, visitors were clearly impressed with the exhibit. Vermont resident Charlie Post said he never thought he would see “something like this” at the museum, and Katrina Kelly, also of Vermont, said its size continued to shock her.

“I have never seen anything this big before,” she said.

DeFrancis said he hopes the exhibit will entice first-time or infrequent visitors to check out some of the museum’s more than 140 permanent collections.

Kevin Li ’17, who viewed Sue in the Chicago museum, said he was still amazed at the skeleton when he visited the museum on Saturday.

“I can appreciate its wonder and significance even more, now that I’m older,” Li said. “It’s great that Dartmouth students have the chance to see something like Sue so close to campus.”