One my son’s early childhood developmental phases was, what I like to refer to as, “the Dinosaur Phase”. It was phase one, closely followed by the “superhero phase” and then the “Lego period”. Tragically my son’s Dinosaur phase coincided with the Natural History Museum’s renovation of the Dinosaur exhibit causing a number of long treks, not always too successful, in search of dinosaurs.
When the exhibit re-opened in 2011, we went racing back, but my son was in his superhero period so didn’t really get to appreciate the exhibit in all its glory. He was more interested in trying to get a spider to bite him so he could be like Spiderman. Now that he’s getting some fossil curriculum in school, he has a renewed interest in dinosaurs and it seemed the perfect time to revisit the museum.
The new Dinosaur Hall is bigger and better in every way. Where the old hall was one gallery, now it’s the size of two and includes an open mezzanine. But the big difference is where the old exhibit had dinosaur fossils with sort of basic labels, this new exhibit tells a story. What is a dinosaur? How did they go extinct? What else lived at the same time? The very questions any young dinosaur lover would pose are addressed in interactive displays, fossils and recreations.
Watch a T Rex Grow up!
Karen Wise, Vice President Education and Exhibits pointed out that we’re particularly lucky here in LA because our Natural History Museum has some amazing specimens that are aren’t found anywhere else — notaby, the T Rex growth series. You can see a Baby T Rex that died at age two (the youngest known specimen of T Rex), situated next to a juvenile T Rex skeleton (of which there are only a handful of specimens). The piece de resistance is Thomas the T Rex – the most complete adult skeleton yet to be discovered. My son loved it , like many kids, T Rex was the superstar of the his dinosaur fantasies.
There are a number of other ways to experience the dinosaurs at NHM. Dino Encounters happens once or twice a day, a short show, where a human and an animatronic dinosaur or dinosaurs interact. Call ahead for show times because they aren’t all day and they are ideal for young kids. My son was a little too old for it, so we headed instead to a lab upstairs where you can actually watch paleontologists as work.
The lab was opened during the renovation as sort of a preview of what was to come. The scientists at the time were actually working on the future exhibit in real time prepping and mounting. “ It was so successful they decided to keep it as a continuing exhibit.” Said Ms. Wise. “Kids have a chance to see that paleontologists are real and how they work.”
We got our fill or dinosaurs, including the mandatory fossil from the gift shop. For years my son and I referred to the Natural History Museum as the Dinosaur Museum and to our delight it lives up to it’s moniker.
More on the Dinosaur Encounter Stage Show
Level 2 in the North American Mammal Hall.
Thursdays: 10:30 am, 11:15 am, 12 pm
Saturdays-Sundays 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm
Times and dinosaur puppets subject to change. Please check the online Museum calendar or at the admissions desk upon arrival.
See the Dino Puppets Backstage
See life-sized juvenile dinosaurs, Hunter the T. rex and Dakota the Triceratops, backstage!
On view everyday in the Discovery Center on the Level 2.
Written by Cary Bickley
Photography by the Natural History Museum