Starting this summer, the Science Museum of Virginia is going big — literally — with the opening of its newest exhibition Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family. This groundbreaking show is the first to spotlight the recently revised tyrannosaur family tree, which includes Scotty, a life-sized T. rex measuring almost 20 feet tall, nearly 40 feet long and tipping the scales at more than 19,000 pounds. Diminutive Scotty is not.
But while Scotty, who was discovered in 1991 and is the heaviest and oldest T. rex currently on record, is alone worth the price of admission of this touring exhibition, Scotty is joined by plenty of fascinating family members, breathtaking interactive experiences and immersive projections, as well as an array of prehistoric-related special programming, all of which help to shed light on this mesmerizing ancient carnivore. There’s much more to the “tyrant lizard king,” as Tyrannosaurus rex means, than the blockbuster film series has led us to believe — looking at you, “Jurassic Park”.
Expand your tyrannosaur knowledge
“The technologies we use today such as X-rays, ultraviolet lighting, 3D scanning and virtual modeling have allowed us to really learn things about dinosaurs that even just 5 or 10 years ago we didn’t know,” says Timshel Purdum, Director of Playful Learning and Inquiry at the Museum. “One of the things I really love about dinosaur science and paleontology in general is that it changes all the time.”
It’s those changes and recently obtained details of the entire tyrannosaur family of some 25 members, including, yes, T. rex, that this exhibition, which opens June 19 and runs through October 3, captures so well.
While most of us are aware of the razor-sharp teeth and bone-crushing jaws of T. rex, did you know that those 60 teeth are similar to sharks in that the dull ones fall out and have another one growing behind it? Or that unlike the iconic T. rex, a lot of its family members had headgear, including horns over their eyes and crests on their heads? New technology now makes it possible for us to know the different colors of some of these dinosaurs, too.
Like our own human family tree, there is an incredible range of diversity among tyrannosaurs, including size, age span and where they lived. “This exhibit gives us the opportunity to show that there are a lot of different types of tyrannosaurs,” says Purdum. “It will be exciting for people to know that T. rex has siblings.”
One of which is Guanlong wucaii, a dinosaur that appears early on in the tyrannosaur family tree. Besides its small size, this creature was feathered as new fossils coming out of China included in this exhibition indicate, confirming the link between dinosaurs and birds. “The fossils of Guanlong show they were walking around some 70 million years ago and fell into a giant Sauropod dinosaur footprint and drowned,” says Purdum. “They were fossilized inside another dinosaur’s footprint.”
Want to get an idea of how those Guanlong might have felt? In addition to a dramatic array of fossils and casts of tyrannosaur specimens, visitors can walk through a multimedia experience in which it appears as if tyrannosaurs are running rampant through Richmond.
Become immersed in the Jurassic through art, workshops and more – perfect for any age
To complement Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family, the Science Museum of Virginia has organized an additional dinosaur-focused exhibition, Bringing the Dead to Life, which explores the evolution of dinosaur science through paleoart. “Just like dinosaurs, the art has always reflected the science over the last 150 years,” says Purdum. “We’ve done an amazing job of curating the story of early dinosaur discoveries along with the art that interpreted their lives then and all the way to now with a diverse group of modern paleo artists. You can see how our understanding of dinosaurs has changed brilliantly with the art we have selected.”
Additional programming and events include Dinosaurs Alive, a giant screen film that captures the earliest creatures of the Triassic Period to the monsters of the Cretaceous Period; fossil casting, dinosaur sculpting and robotic dinosaur workshops; and the Museum’s weekly Lunch Break Series featuring virtual presentations by paleontologists and scientists around the world.
“You don’t have to outgrow dinosaurs,” says Purdum, who has spent some 30 years teaching about these incredible prehistoric animals. “This exhibit offers cutting-edge science and understanding of ancient worlds and how they inform our world today that adults can sink their teeth into as well [experiences] that provide the awe and wonder that younger children bring to the museum.”
In other words: Just like the exhibition itself, bring the entire family.
Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family
- Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 W. Broad St.