It’s hard to miss the roaring, 40-foot-long, animatronic T-Rex outside the entrance of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University— and it’s only one of 13 full-size, technically elite, animated dinosaur sculptures for the newest exhibit, Dinosaurs Unearthed. But did you know that one hundred forty-five years before Dinosaurs Unearthed came to Philly, the statue of the man standing behind the 25,000 pound, animated T-Rex figure started it all?
The Academy has always been at the forefront of bringing dinosaurs into the modern era: In the 1850s-60s, the renowned, Philly-bred paleontologist, Joseph Leidy named the holotype specimen of Hadrosaurus foulkii and arranged for its public display, which became a world-wide attraction as the first nearly-complete, fossilized dinosaur skeleton at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Josepeh Leidy also made history by (correctly) suggesting that Hadrosaurus foulkii was and should be mounted as a biped, against the accepted, scientific view of the time. His statued image aptly oversees the scaled, animated T-Rex that welcomes museum visitors.
Continuing their innovative attitude, the Academy welcomes Dinosaurs Unearthed, a state-of-the-art, traveling exhibit which has been on display since 2005 across North America. Over a dozen full-size, animatronic dinosaurs are the flagship attraction, showcased amongst fossils, fossil casts and hands-on activities for children– including chances to control animatronic movements.
Each exhibition element has been carefully designed into an experience that hopes to cast a new understanding of dinosaur appearances and behaviors for visitors of all ages. “They weren’t monsters or mythical creatures, but vital parts of their ecosystems, just like any other animals, though sometimes on a bigger scale,” explains Academy palentologist Dr. Ted Daeschler, who also serves as an associate professor in Drexel University’s Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science.
In the past eight years of touring, Dinosaurs Unearthed has continually integrated updates on the appearances and behaviors of the featured, animatronic dinosaurs, per the rapidly-changing, latest scientific evidence– including exciting new inclusions, such as patterned protofeathers (precursors of bird feathers) and compelling behavior scenarios, which depict predation among dinosaurs and other compelling, natural events.
Dinosaurs Unearthed will be on display until March 30, 2014.