Don't forget the shark!
HMNS teases expansion with Texas history, Russian jewels and a mummifieddinosaur
From Texas to triceratops, it's going to be a big year for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Between scatalogical jokes on Tuesday morning, visiting paleontology curator Dr. Robert Bakker (in full Indiana Jones dress, complete with hat) and associate paleontology curator David Temple revealed the museum's 2011 exhibits and plans for a 2012 expansion that will double the museum's size and make room for an immense new paleontology hall.
Compared to other national museums, HMNS is small. Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, for example, spans 450,000 square feet compared to Houston's 115,000. The new wing, which more than $70.3 million has been raised to build, will do much to bridge the gap — it will cover more than the length of a football field and take up two stories.
But enough with the specs; Get ready to nerd out. Among the new wing's planned attractions are a mummified triceratops, interactive animated duels to the death and a reconstructed megalodon — whose jaw is to be reconstructed in the existing paleo hall DURING SHARK WEEK.
But we digress. The new hall will contain several new T-Rexes (the most mounted T-Rexes of any other museum) in a narrative display concept described by Bakker as a "prehistoric safari." Gone are the days of static displays mounted on pedestals. These are interactive, contextual and vast.
The displays will contain complete skeletons, partial skeletons and detailed casts — the latter of which makes possible more dynamic, dramatic displays like those planned, says Temple.
The showstopper of those skeletons, though, is Sarah — the mummified triceratops that was excavated complete with her petrified skin. Visitors will travel through three billion years of fossilized history, giving them "a sense of the choreography of evolution," Bakker says.
One of the anticipated displays features "the elephant story" — an exploration into elephants' migration via water. (Bakker says they can swim better than horses.) Beneath an elephant skeleton assembled in a swimming position will be the massive megalodon shark, which Bakker says there is evidence had once eaten elephants that dared deeper water.
Texas history, to be explored at length in a 2011 exhibit, will spread to the paleo hall, too, with significant space dedicated to the Red Bed period of 284 million years ago. The period is particularly significant to Texas because Seymour, a town in Baylor Country, contains some of the finest specimens from this period — including a 7 by 12-foot fossil block, the largest ever excavated from a Texas Red Bed.
But you don't have to wait until Memorial Day weekend, 2012 to get excited.
Beginning March 6 is the Texas exhibition, organized completely in-house. Among the artifacts to be on display are the original "Come and Take it" cannon, the decree granting Mexican citizenship to James Bowie, the famous "Victory or Death" letter penned by Col. William Barret Travis, the flag that flew over the battle of San Jacinto and the Juneteenth order ending segregation in Texas.
Opening May 20 is the Hermitage: Treasures from Russia's Winter palace, a collection of rarely loaned pieces that will be displayed exclusively in Houston through November. Negotiations have been in place for the exhibit since 1991. The pieces are to be installed in the Hermitage's new wing after their Houston vacation, and they may never travel again.
Finally, on May 27 a collection of treasures from the lost civilizations of Ancient Ukraine, dating from between 2,000 and 1,000 B.C., will be on display.
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