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New dinosaur exhibit kicks off $9-million expansion at Royal Tyrrell

May 23, 2016

by Michele Jarvie

Just as the badlands are the bedrock upon which dinosaurs once roamed, a major new exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum lays the groundwork for understanding paleontology.

Aptly named Foundations, the exhibit is the first new major display since 2010 and is the precursor to a $9.3-million expansion at the Drumheller museum. Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda, who was on hand for the exhibit opening on Friday, announced the infrastructure funding contained in its 2016 capital plan.

“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 visitors, create jobs and leave a legacy for future generations,” said Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism.

The ambitious project will add classroom and learning space, expand the distance learning studios, develop a hands-on discovery room and add a family rest area. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2017 with completion in 2019, and the museum will remain open during the work.

The Foundations exhibit is an interactive experience that provides context for visitors’ journey through time in the rest of the galleries. It explores the science of paleontology, explains the importance of Alberta’s fossils, and the museum’s role in protecting and preserving those rare resources which include some of the oldest fossils in the world.

“We shine a light on why Alberta is so important in paleontology. The Southern Alberta badlands environment was very favourable to supporting dinosaurs and very favourable to the preservations of specimens once they died,” said Craig Scott, the lead scientist on the exhibit.

The new exhibit presents the story of life on Earth, how geological and biological processes have shaped the world, and how life has found a way to survive several mass extinctions throughout its 3.9-billion-year-history. Interactive components such as a 4D globe, touch specimens, videos, and “the jacket lifting” game help elevate scientific topics into a sensory experience for visitors. They even dust off some fossils that have been housed deep in the vaults and never displayed before.

“We’re quite excited about it. It has a different look and feel from the other galleries. We’ve introduced a number of very contemporary and innovative techniques,” said Scott. “We’ve taken some really remarkable specimens and presented them really well.”

But it’s not all fun and games. Because the museum is also a research institute, Foundations tries to give visitors a sense of the scope of research conducted by scientists and show why it is important to study plants and animals found in fossils.

Open since 1985, the Royal Tyrrell houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs and is Canada’s only museum dedicated to paleontology. More than 12 million people have visited in its 31 years.



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