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Exhibits & Communications

Our Foundations exhibit may have just opened, but the Royal Tyrrell Museum never rests in its quest to show visitors the most accurate palaeontology information in dynamic displays. In 2017, a new exhibit will replace Lords of the Land, a beautiful gallery that highlighted some of the Museum’s most remarkable theropod specimens.

Installed in 2007, Lords of the Land  was initially meant to be a simple update of an existing gallery that displayed a collection of western North American theropods (bipedal, mostly carnivores). However, the project quickly evolved into an experiment in displaying dinosaurs a different way and taking the opportunity to impress visitors with the awe and size of a fully mounted dinosaur early in their journey through the Museum.

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An Ornithomimus in the classic death pose, with neck bent backwards over the body.

It took about a year to go from initial conception to installation. Lords of the Land is a marked departure from the interpretive strategy of the rest of the Museum. Rather than the natural history lens used in the other galleries, Lords of the Land presents specimens as works of art. The background is dark, the specimens are in gilded frames or displayed on Tuscan columns, and, if you listen carefully, you can hear classical music playing in the background. This design choice was partially made to differentiate it from past exhibits in the space. Theropods had been displayed there before, but the gallery tended to feature steel and hard lines, playing off the idea that carnivores were tough and aggressive and giving a sharp, modern feel. The art gallery inspiration gave the space a different atmosphere.

There is another innovation in the gallery: labels for the visually impaired. Not only are the labels for every specimen in Lords of the Land also written in braille, the specimens themselves were 3D scanned and imprinted on the plaques, creating extremely detailed miniature versions.

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One of the braille labels

Designing the gallery had its challenges along the way. It was initially intended to be much darker than it is now, with the only lighting coming from below. However, while atmospheric, these low light levels made reading and navigating difficult so overhead lights were added in response to visitor needs

Mounting the three raptor skeletons on their columns was also a test for our exhibits staff. While placing the skeletons on pedestals was a way to both save space and add to the art gallery vibe, there was a risk that the pedestals would wobble and damage the specimens. The solution was to mount the raptors on a skinny pedestal encased in a large column covered in shock absorbers.  No easy task!

The specimens displayed in Lords of the Land are some of the most significant and visually impressive we had in our collection at the time, including this one:

1884 Albertosaurus find-cast

This skull of Albertosaurus sarcophagus was found by Joseph B. Tyrrell (our namesake!) in 1884. Tyrrell was not a palaeontologist but a geologist looking for coal deposits in the Red Deer valley when he discovered the skull, which turned out to be a new species, one which was eventually named for this province. The species is also a bit of a special one for the Museum – it’s the first dinosaur you see when you enter and the only fleshed out dinosaur in the entire Museum.

In addition to the Albertosaurus skull, we also have the holotype of Atrociraptor (“savage robber”) on display.

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Atrociraptor: Dinosaur or death metal band?

A holotype is an individual plant or animal that serves as the basis for the description of a species. In other words, it’s what other finds are compared to in order to identify them. The Royal Tyrrell Museum has more than 300 holotypes but, because they’re so incredibly valuable, most are kept in a special locked storage area.

Lords of the Land also features dinosaur trackways, ornithomimids, and Alberta raptors.

If this all sounds too interesting for words or you’ve been before and loved it, don’t despair! There’s still time to visit before it all comes down. And we promise that, while the new exhibit may be different, it will be just as amazing and have just as many cool specimens.

Lords of the Land closes in late fall 2016, with the new exhibit opening spring 2017.

On August 14, Dr. David Hone did a special lecture at the Royal Tyrrell Museum on tyrannosaurs.

His first book, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: the Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs, tracks the rise of tyrannosaurs, the most famous and best-studied of all dinosaurs. This engaging book presents the science behind the research and tells the story of the evolution, anatomy, behaviour, and ecology of the over two dozen tyrannosaur species and how they fit into the world of the dinosaurs. Good for all ages, his talk is a fun exploration and debunks some popular misconceptions about tyrannosaurs.

Dr. Dave Hone, palaeontologist and writer, focuses his research on the behaviour and ecology of dinosaurs and flying reptiles— the pterosaurs. He also writes extensively online about palaeontology and science outreach, has a blog for the science pages of The Guardian, and is a regular contributor for other media outlets as a scientific consultant.

 

 

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At the Royal Tyrrell Museum, we are equal parts excited and nervous because we just launched our first large-scale exhibit in over five years. The exhibit, Foundations, is about everything that is important to us as a science and natural history museum, from the very beginnings of planet Earth, to the evolution of life, to fossils and their journey from living beings and into our Museum collections. With its expansive scope and mix of specimens, hands-on activities, and technology, Foundations is another step in our continued commitment to studying and celebrating the history of life on Earth.

 

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May 20, 2016

Alberta’s world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is getting even more exciting as it unveils a major new exhibit and a planned $9.3-million expansion, part of the Alberta Jobs Plan.

The new exhibit, Foundations, offers visitors of all ages a dynamic, interactive experience that explores the science of palaeontology and Alberta’s leadership role in the study and preservation of some of the of some of the best fossils in the world.

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The Government of Alberta is making a major $9.3-million investment to expand the Royal Tyrrell Museum facilities, including an additional hands-on learning area, classrooms, and a distance-learning space. The Museum is a key heritage tourism attraction for the province and a significant economic driver for southern Alberta. The expansion will create short- and long-term employment and diversify our economy.

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“Albertans love the Royal Tyrrell Museum and this new exhibit and expansion are sure to be dino-mite! It is truly a provincial jewel, inspiring young minds and attracting scientists and visitors from all over the world. By making the museum experience even better, the expansion money our government is announcing today will increase visitation, create jobs, and leave a legacy for future generations.”
– Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Foundations will encourage visitors to learn about the basics of palaeontology, geology, evolution, fossilization, and the history of life on Earth. They will witness the breadth and wonder of the Museum’s collection and come to understand Alberta’s critical role in the preservation and scientific study of fossils globally.

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Multimillion-dollar expansion plans underway
Through Capital Plan 2016, the Government of Alberta is investing $9.3 million for the expansion of facilities at the Museum.

“Our government is proud to invest in this world-renowned Museum. When we build, renew and maintain infrastructure such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum, our economy gets a needed boost. Investing in infrastructure also supports jobs and strengthens Alberta’s communities.”
– Brian Mason, Minister of Infrastructure

Funding will go towards:

  • expanding facilities, including the distance learning studios
  • additional classroom and learning space
  • expanding accessible public washroom facilities
  • developing a hands-on discovery room
  • a rest area for the entire family

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed in the spring of 2019. The Museum will remain open to the public throughout the construction period.

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The Royal Tyrrell Museum is recognized globally as a premier research and education centre. It houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs and is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology. Since opening its doors in 1985, the Museum has attracted more than 12 million visitors from around the world.

In 2013, tourism in Alberta generated $8 billion in visitor spending and more than 127,000 jobs.

Foundations Fact Sheet

About the Museum Fact Sheet

Media inquiries:
Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
carrie.lunde@gov.ab.ca
403-820-6208

 

In June of 2015, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology revealed a new species of horned dinosaur named Regaliceratops peterhewsi, meaning ‘royal horned face,’ a discovery that turned out to be one of the most exciting dinosaur stories of 2015. The dinosaur, a member of the Ceratopsidae family, is notably different from other known relatives in both the size and shape of the horns on its face and a distinctive, crown-like frill at the back of its skull. The beaked, herbivorous dinosaur dates from the Cretaceous Period, a time that saw the highest diversity of ceratopsian dinosaurs. Nicknamed “Hellboy” due to the combination of difficult excavation conditions and hardness of the rock surrounding the skull, this specimen has provided exciting new information about the evolution of horned dinosaurs.

This talk highlights the story behind the discovery and preparation of the skull and illustrates the process involved with the description and naming of this new species. The talk also shows why the horns and frill of this new animal were so surprising, and what this means for the pattern of evolution of the horns and frill in the Ceratopsidae.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and open to the public. The series will be held every Thursday until April 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium.

There are many individuals in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology’s thirty-year history who have contributed to its success as Canada’s dinosaur museum. Maurice Stefanuk (1924-2016) was one of the Museum’s first technicians and research assistants who worked on many of the original specimens that are on display today in our Dinosaur Hall. Born and raised in Drumheller, Alberta, Maurice spent his childhood exploring the badlands. During one outing, he found a large carnivorous dinosaur tooth—a small discovery that sparked a life-long interest in fossils from the area.

During World War II, Stefanuk served as a sonar operator in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Battle of the North Atlantic protecting vital transport convoys from German U-boats. He made twenty-six dangerous transits from Canada to England.  In the fall of 1982, he joined the Royal Tyrrell Museum team, helping build exhibits as a dinosaur fossil preparator. After the Museum opened in 1985, he took field photographs of dinosaur quarries being excavated along the Red Deer River north of Drumheller and hiked the rugged badlands relocating them for Toronto-based palaeontology legend Dr. Loris S. Russell. New information learned from these dozens of sites was used in a recently published dinosaur biostratigraphic study.

Feb 8- Albertosaurus Skull

His biggest contribution to science was the discovery of two of the best skeletons of the comparatively rare tyrannosaur Albertosaurus (the Museum’s iconic symbol). One was discovered in 1973 east of Trochu, and the other in 1985, not far from the Museum. Both important specimens have been utilized in a number of displays and landmark scientific studies.

Albertosaurus has also become Alberta’s unofficial provincial dinosaur with representation on coins, stamps, and as part of the original Museum logo. When Canada House, home to the Canadian High Commission (and one of the most iconic buildings that make up Trafalgar Square in London, England), was undertaking some major renovations to reflect the art and culture of each province and territory, it was only natural for the Alberta Room to house an Albertosaurus. Just before he passed away, the cast of the skull of the second Albertosaurus Maurice discovered went on display.

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Image credit: High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom.

Remarkably, during his time of service in the war, a picture of Maurice was taken on shore leave in Trafalgar Square, just a stone’s throw away from the future Canada House.  Of course he did not know it, but some seventy years after that picture was taken, a fossil he would find thirty years later would be displayed less than 100 metres from where that picture was taken.

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Quick question: How much does a polar bear weigh? Just enough to break the ice! This was one of the gems delivered by Dustin and Zak during the Museum Hack Audience Development workshop held recently at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Jan 13- blog 1

Museum Hack is a company based out of New York City whose specialty is developing interactive, subversive, and non-traditional tours of art and natural history museums. They endeavour to evolve and modernize how visitors think of museums. Dusty halls filled with boring old stuff? Nope. Museums are overflowing with tantalizing tales behind every specimen on display.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is no exception, our fossils have secrets. T. rex and Triceratops are just the tipping point as palaeontology spans 3.9 billion years of Earth’s history and studies a myriad of organisms. Museum Hack was here to bring our staff new ideas on how to share our love of the science of palaeontology with our visitors.

The day began, not with Dustin and Zak lecturing our staff in a classroom, but by bringing our team into the Museum’s galleries and experiencing the space as if we were visitors. We howled with our dire wolf because winter is coming. We stood under our elasmosaur and discussed the dirty scientific feud that developed when the species was first unveiled (seriously, go look up the Bone Wars right now, it’s fantastic). We received wildly scientifically inaccurate plastic dinosaurs, were tasked with finding their match in our galleries, and taking a selfie with it.

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Those, and the many other activities of the workshop, are not what you would expect from a traditional museum experience. Learning about the Museum Hack style challenged us as interpreters to expand the possibilities of how we connect visitors to science. Mixing mind-blowing scientific facts with fun ‘ice breakers’ creates engagement that is memorable and demands a return visit to learn more.

If you find yourself in New York City, Washington DC, or San Francisco book a Museum Hack Tour.

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