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Natural history museum to bring dinosaurs to life
Dino Day to be held Saturday
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Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, touches an animatronic T-Rex dinosaur Thursday that will be on hand for Dino Day on Saturday at the museum in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Friday, January 11, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Past visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History who return Saturday for the opening of two new dinosaur-themed exhibits may notice that the museum looks different.

That is because its former Great Hall, rechristened earlier this week as the Hall of Ancient Life, now is full of large dinosaur skeletons.

The museum will host Dino Day, a family-oriented event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to coincide with the opening of the exhibits — one simply titled “Dinosaurs” and another titled “Dinosaur Discovery.”

Thursday night, about 50 museum supporters attended a special preview of the exhibits, which will run through Aug. 25.

Ryan Barber, the museum’s deputy director, said that if anyone has not previously visited the museum, now is the time to so.

The new dinosaur exhibits include specimens from the museum’s collections as well as some on loan from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and the Cleveland (Ohio) Museum of Natural History.

As a result, the exhibits do not exist anywhere else in the world, Barber noted, adding that they are the “perfect combination” of specimens and interactive technology that should interest visitors of all ages.

It took months for the Virginia museum’s employees to design the exhibits, which include extremely detailed cast skeletons of dinosaurs, according to Alton “Butch” Dooley, the museum’s curator of paleontology.

Dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Mesozoic area which stretched from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. There are various theories for why they became extinct, ranging from an asteroid striking the planet to diseases to volcanic eruptions.

Real fossil bones from a variety of dinosaurs will be on display. Some of the bones are owned by the federal government, although the Virginia museum is their official repository, Dooley said.

Among the cast skeletons are a 40-foot-long Acrocanthosaurus as well as the smaller Deinonychus, Tenontosaurus and Triceratops.

“Dinosaur Discovery,” in the Temporary Exhibit Hall, features an interactive dinosaur-themed maze for visitors of all ages.

Walking through the maze, visitors will learn about relevant matters such as paleontology (the study of ancient life) and fossils (remains of ancient life).

Museum-goers also will learn about other types of reptiles — both living and extinct — that lived alongside dinosaurs, such as crocodiles and pterosaurs. The latter were flying reptiles that resembled large birds.

As part of Dino Day, a field jacket containing the fossil bones of the skull of a Triceratops, a large dinosaur with horns, will be opened at 11 a.m.

In terms of what the bones will look like, “I don’t know what we’ll see when we open it,” Dooley said.

Field jackets are used to safely remove fossils from the ground and secure them while they are in storage.

Other special Dino Day activities will include a children’s presentation, “A Dinosaur Named Nancy,” and a program on the Carmel Church quarry near Richmond where scientists from the museum do research. Many fossils of marine and land animals have been found there.

The museum is on Starling Avenue in Martinsville. Regular museum admission fees will apply Saturday — $9 for adults; $7 for college students, seniors and active duty military; and $5 for children aged 3-18. Members and children under 3 will be admitted for free.

 

 
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