Face to face with dinosaurs at Cranbrook
Justin and I took advantage again of Cranbrook Institute of Science’s special free first Friday program. We were happy our friends came with us to explore the natural history and science museum. While we enjoyed wandering the entire institute, our main interest was checking out the new exhibit, Dinosaurs: The Lost World, which opened in June and runs through July 2014. I was very curious to explore the new exhibit, knowing it was developed by the CIS staff and took many hours to come together.
The dinosaur exhibit fills the entire 6,000 square feet traveling exhibit hall on the lower level of the museum. The dinosaurs on display in the exhibit lived in Wyoming during the last 3 million years of the Cretaceous Period. As mentioned, the CIS staff developed Dinosaurs: The Lost World, in collaboration with Jack and John Hankla, who have gathered one of the world’s most impressive private fossil collections, The Hankla Collection.
When you first enter the Lost World exhibit, look to the left and you’re greeted by a lot of dinosaurs, even some “flying” from the ceiling! It’s a very cool sight. The exhibit boasts more than 60 complete research quality skeleton casts and even some real skeletons. There are several displays of real fossil eggs – some of them are huge! Although when Justin pointed out the size of the dinosaur skeleton, it made sense one of the eggs would need to be that big to produce such a large animal.
The skeletons are of differing size and in varying phases of motion, highlighting the variety of dinosaurs that once roamed our Earth. I would guess two of the most recognizable dinosaurs in the exhibit are the T. rex and Velociraptor, made most famous by their (digital) appearances in the Jurassic Park movie series. One of the avian (flying) dinosaurs could reach the size of a F-16 fighter jet! We were all amazed at the size of the one that resembled our modern day alligator. This species could grow to 9 tons! The skeleton was in a cool position with the jaw open, ready to bite another dinosaur. We nervously chuckled it would not be fun to encounter something of that size.
Two items stood out to me: A big slab of sandstone contained real fossil bones preserved in storm deposits. How crazy to see all these fossils together, imagining the excitement of coming across this amazing discovery. There is also a slab that has footprints of four dinosaurs and hints of other contemporary animals. It was cool to pick out the various footprints, knowing this cast is a one of the kind in North America.
There is also a children’s area filled excavation activities. While it was great to see so many children enjoying the mock excavation area, I cringed for the staff who had to clean the fake dirt off the carpet. It was everywhere! We were really pleased to see so many families wandering the museum. The children walking through the dinosaur exhibit were certainly enthralled with the numerous large skeletal casts. Many parents were reading the exhibit signs to their kids, explaining various facts. I always love watching children get excited about arts and culture!
If you are interested in learning more about paleontology and dinosaurs, check out the CIS program schedule as there will be upcoming “Dino Prep Lab” days when visitors are welcome to help prepare real dinosaur fossils, as well as special lectures by local and visiting geologists and paleontologists.
Throughout the exhibit, and the institute’s other exhibits, visitors will find QR codes on signs. These barcode symbols can be scanned with a special app (usually free to download for smart phones) that then takes visitors to websites or other portals containing extra information on an item or section of the exhibit. A creative approach to further engaging visitors in the exhibit experience.
After our museum visit, we enjoyed dinner at Moose Preserve in Bloomfield Hills (located a short distance from CIS at Square Lake/Woodward). The food is always good and the drinks cold at this restaurant.
Note: I served as the PR manager for CIS for about five years; however, I genuinely enjoy visiting the museum and Cranbrook in general so these opinions are my own. 🙂