Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Posted by Staff on Thursday, May 24th, 2012
When it comes to dinosaur exhibits, there is definitely no shortage of them in the world of natural history museums. This being the case, museum directors and exhibit designers must find an approach that will differentiate their exhibit from all the others out there. We’ve covered some pretty cool dinosaur-themed museum exhibits in the past, such as Das Praehistorium and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, but today we’d like to focus on Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and what makes it unique.
Dinosaur Hall reopened last year after undergoing a major redesign as part of a seven year $135 million renovation of the entire museum. The display space has been doubled from what was previously available to 14,000 square feet. Along with all this space comes a lot of new bones, many of which were only recently discovered. In total, Dinosaur Hall contains 300 fossils and 20 complete skeletons, ranging from a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus to a 28-inch-long Fruitadens Haagarorum. The skeletons and fossils are assembled in stunning tableaus through which visitors can stroll and admire these relics of the past.
The pride and joy of Dinosaur Hall is a display in which three Tyrannosauruses surround an unfortunate duck-billed Edmontosaurus (pictured above). Two of the predators are in the process of gnawing on the meal, while the largest of the group looks on. It is the difference in size between these three specimens that makes this display especially unique. One of the skeletons is believed to be about two years old, another 14, and the third full-grown. Intact examples of such young dinosaurs are rare in themselves, but to have a display with Tyrannosauruses of three different ages is unheard of. Nowhere else in the world is there an exhibit that shows visitors the different life stages of this dinosaur with actual skeletons.
With so many outstanding specimens on display, the museum wanted to be sure that the audiovisual elements wouldn’t overshadow the dinosaur bones. The Natural History Museum worked with Electrosonic of Burbank, California, to develop informational displays that would enhance the experience without taking anything away from the bones themselves. As Steve Coe, a Electrosonic design consultant has said, “In the Hall, the dinosaurs are the stars. You don’t want to compete with the T. rex – people are there to see the bones.” Electrosonic managed to keep out of the way, but still create engaging content by embedding most of the audiovisual displays into walls. These interactive touchscreen panels allow guests to zoom in on bones, listen to dinosaur calls, and pull up informative facts on the specimens.
The most prominent audiovisual element is a 15-foot-wide projection which greets visitors as they enter the exhibit. This features a video called “Investigating Dinosaurs” that takes guests through the process of searching for dinosaur fossils. The video, as well as other audiovisual elements, are aimed at reminding visitors that paleontology is a continuously evolving discipline and that our ideas about these creatures are being reshaped with every new discovery. Between the exquisite skeletons and provocative audiovisual elements, visitors should walk away with the feeling that the past is still very much alive and open to new interpretations.
All Images: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County