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Apr 27 2014

They’re closing the Smithsonian’s dinosaur hall for five years!

Every time I go to Washington DC I try to find time to visit the fossil hall, which is damn good (not quite as good as the AMNH’s, though, which gets my highest marks for an informative dino experience). But now the bad news: it’s being closed for five long years. The good news, though, is it will reopen with a complete renovation and a new and very complete T. rex skeleton.

Now I guess I have to stay alive for five more years to see if DC can have a better exhibit than New York. One more reason to not die…

26 comments

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  1. 1
    David Marjanović

    the fossil hall, which is damn good

    It was, but it was also a museum of a museum: much of the explanation hadn’t changed since the 1940s, teaching massively outdated ideas.

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    That’s why the AMNH tops my list — it uses the fossils to teach modern concepts of systematics.

    Let’s all hope the renovation involves increasing the scientific depth of the presentations — the “ooh, here’s a great big fossil!” approach is fine for the Creation “Museum”, but real museums explain the significance of their exhibits.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    Five years? That’ll give them time to add saddles and human skeletons to the dinosaurs. And correctly depict T-Rex eating plants.
    (/Ken Ham)

  4. 4
    azhael

    Hmmmm…nope, in 5 years i still won´t be able to visit….

  5. 5
    Ubi Dubium

    We went a week ago for one last fossil fix before the shutdown. As cool as the hall was, it was clear why the overhaul is long overdue. We compared it to the more recent exhibitions, like the new hall of human origins, and the dinosaur hall really shows its age. Not only are a lot of the exhibits terribly outdated, but there is no clear story told. And not nearly enough benches either. (At least my kids got to see the anomalocaris fossils.)

    But five years? What kind of overhaul could possibly take five years??? The best exhibit on the history of life I have seen is at the Field Museum in Chicago. If they take five years on this one, it had better be at least as good as Chicago’s when they are done.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    Is this another Koch-funded re-do? Maybe they need until 2019 to work out the details of how all the dinosaurs died from a deficiency of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  7. 7
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re Trebuchet:
    your mention of Ham-ster makes me bring up this sideline, I had already emailed to PZ, about Ham complaining about the T-Rex being shipped to the AMNH. That by doing so (and buying it for $5M); the Feds were violating the 1st Amendment by establishing the religion of Science! It is nice to hear that the AMNH are redoing the site, to make an appropriate venue for the Sciencism shrine, and won’t just unpack it somewhere in the building. 5 yrs seems a bit extreme but it takes a while to cover it in gold leaf, doent it?

  8. 8
    carlie

    My only guess to the timeframe is that it might be regulatory – if there are some safety features that have to be disrupted, or some construction elements that don’t allow people to be around, then they might have to wait until the entire thing is done to allow the public in even if theoretically people could walk through and look at the finished portions of it.

  9. 9
    blf

    Five years seems about right. It’s hard enough to start a Triceratops, much less then stop it. But here you have a whole bunch of different dinosaurs, each of which has to started, herded to a new location, stopped and rested, then started again, herded back and accurately positioned, before being stopped. And in the interim you have to clean out the cobwebs, cheap rustbucket robots, and invading alien junk dealers.

  10. 10
    Dean Calahan

    Well, it’s a pretty old building, and there are a number of other renovation projects going on. The whole set of projects needs to be done in such a way that everything else can be kept operating, both open to the public and for the curators and researchers. Much of that entails major work being done at night, reversibly shutting down systems and starting them up again for the next day.

    They’ve been working on the east wing of the building for a couple of years now – all researchers, no public access, ripping out ancient (perhaps it should be in a museum?) steam, water, electric, etc. and replacing it with modern equivalents and doing basic remodeling, and they are nowhere near finished. If they are doing anything similar in the middle of a large public space – well, given how long it’s taking in non-public space, I’m not surprised.

    Note: I have been a post-doc with Walter Adey, one of the curators there, for almost a year now. Because of the east wing renovations, until recently just to get from the staff entrance to Walter’s lab required navigating quite a maze of back hallways and collection storage. “Take a left just after the triceratops skull; if you see the T-Rex fibula you took a wrong turn somewhere.”

  11. 11
    Ysidro

    I remember when they had the dinosaur hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh closed. It was a sad, sad time. But then it reopened with new, modern exhibits! The famed T-rex was displayed according to currently understanding. Even the old stegosaurus skeleton was redone.

    It’ll suck waiting 5 years, but it’ll be worth it. But until then, you can always come to Pittsburgh for kick ass dino-skeleton needs!

  12. 12
    mikeyb

    Will there be a new equal treatment wing for conservatives, with examples of humans living side by side with dinos prior to the flood. After all its only fair, roughly 40% of the population believes the universe is 6000 year old. And it would be good for revenue. We could have a conservative family values friendly part of the museum, so they can see some cool science and not be exposed to that yuck science that challenges their strongly held fragile egos..

  13. 13
    Rich Woods

    @mikeyb #12:

    We could have a conservative family values friendly part of the museum, so they can see some cool science and not be exposed to that yuck science that challenges their strongly held fragile egos..

    Most museums nowadays have those: they’re called coffee shops.

  14. 14
    twas brillig (stevem)

    … with examples of humans living side by side with dinos prior to the flood. …

    It is oh so sad ;-( that such a display would NOT show them how ridiculous such a “history” is. At least it is so ridiculous; that doing so would tarnish the AMNH’s reputation irreparably, by displaying such junk-science ;-)
    If only that would happen to Rev. Hamster…

  15. 15
    mikeyb

    Would it really “tarnish the AMNH’s reputation irreparbly?” Maybe in the past, yes. Among the educated, academia and scientists yes. But in our new present both sides entertainment media I think not. The media as a whole doesn’t give a fuck what scientists think anyway, just what new gadgets the make. There are two sides to climate change, two sides to women’s reproductive rights, two sides to creation, two sides to do we even need government period, etc. etc. It isn’t a big stretch to having museums to present two sides of science, history, or anything else. Our brain dead media would greet this change as yet a new way to make money off of ignorance in an entertaining and ‘fair’ way.

  16. 16
    imback

    Keeping the museum names straight…

    The New York Yankees are in the American League. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is in New York.

    The Washington Nationals are in the National League. The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is in Washington.

    And Washington has not won the World Series in ninety years, so five years without dinosaurs is doable.

  17. 17
    rq

    As long as it’s open by the time I manage to make it over there, let them improve!

  18. 18
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    RE: #3 Trebuchet

    And correctly depict T-Rex eating plants.

    I would pay handsomely to see a plant which could eat a T-Rex!

    That would make a good movie, too.

  19. 19
    psanity

    Wait a minute — five years? They took Kathy’s T-Rex, and they won’t have it together for five years?! Phooey.

    your mention of Ham-ster makes me bring up this sideline, I had already emailed to PZ, about Ham complaining about the T-Rex being shipped to the AMNH. That by doing so (and buying it for $5M); the Feds were violating the 1st Amendment by establishing the religion of Science! It is nice to hear that the AMNH are redoing the site, to make an appropriate venue for the Sciencism shrine, and won’t just unpack it somewhere in the building. 5 yrs seems a bit extreme but it takes a while to cover it in gold leaf, doent it?

    What is he talking about? The Wankel T-Rex belongs, and always has, to the people of the U.S. — it was found on federal land. The controlling agency is the Army Cops of Engineers, and its official repository is Museum of the Rockies. It is on loan to the Smithsonian for 40 years. Sadly, we don’t really expect it ever to come home, but we do have a very nice cast.

  20. 20
    hexidecima

    go to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum’s dino hall. All restored and shows a use for a man who made too much money on the backs of the uneducated. And hit the strip district for awesome food.

  21. 21
    twas brillig (stevem)

    What is he talking about? The Wankel T-Rex belongs, and always has, to the people of the U.S. — it was found on federal land. The controlling agency is the Army Cops of Engineers, and its official repository is Museum of the Rockies. It is on loan to the Smithsonian for 40 years.

    QFT. Yes, what is the Ham talking about. No matter where it was found nor why the Feds paid $$$ for it, or not. The fact that they are putting into a museum, to Ham, is _enshrining_ it, as a centerpiece of a “religion”. Everything is a Religion to him, especially Science. The only Knowledge is Belief. blah, blah, blah. Ham is amusing; to read about, don’t want to meet him in reality…

  22. 22
    dalbryn

    Alright, I’ll have to plan a trip to DC for sometime in late 2019.

  23. 23
    george gonzalez

    Five years? Why that’s almost 0.1% of its age!

  24. 24
    Trebuchet

    @9, blf:

    It’s hard enough to start a Triceratops, much less then stop it.

    Just toss a golf ball.

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    The New York Yankees are in the American League. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is in New York.

    The Washington Nationals are in the National League. The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is in Washington.

    Huh.

    The NMNH is public-owned. If it’s public and national, of course it’s in the national capital. The AMNH is private just like The Very Big Corporation of America; also, there’s New York, and there is America…

  26. 26
    cactusren

    I’ve seen the plans for the new exhibit, and it looks like it’s going to be amazing. As for the 5-year shut down: yes, it’s long, but they’re going to be gutting and rebuilding a large section of an old building, so it’s a pretty reasonable timeline. The whole space will end up being much more open, with more interactive displays, and (of course) updated science.

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