Smithsonian Museum to get a T. rex - via FedEx

  • Apr, 07, 2014, 09:50 PM
Sue the T. rex
(Photo : PHOTO: REUTERS) "Sue" - currently on display at the Chicago Field Museum.
Smithsonian T. rex
(Photo : PHOTO: MUSEUM OF THE ROCKIES) The Smithsonian-bound T. rex in its original “death pose” at Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies in 2005.

After a search spanning nearly two decades, the Smithsonian will finally get its own Tyrannosaurus rex specimen next week.

Known as "the Nation's T. rex," the unmounted specimen is being trucked from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman to Washington, via FedEx, where it will be unpacked April 15 and eventually serve as the centerpiece of a new National Fossil Hall, opening in 2019, according to the Washington Post. 

"It's about time the Smithsonian had their own T. rex," said Marketing Director at the Museum of the Rockies Mark Robinson.   

The Smithsonian has been on a mammoth search for a T. Rex fossil since October 1997  - after losing the Sotheby's auction to purchase the world's largest, most complete  T. Rex specimen ever unearthed - known as "Sue".

Sue had a riveting backstory: A task force led by the FBI had seized her from commercial bone dealers who found the fossil and the ensuing custody battle was played out in federal court, wrote the Washington Post.

But the acquisition was not meant to be, and Sue was sold to the Field Museum in Chicago for $7.6M, a sum much higher than the initial estimation of $1M and the museum's highest bid of $2.5M.  

The Smithsonian's Natural History Museum is second only to the the Louvre in number of museum visits, according to the Themed Entertainment Association. Two-thirds of its estimated 8 million visitors last year passed through the Fossil Hall, the Washington Post wrote.  

The current featured attraction in Fossil Hall is a life-size replica of "Stan," a T. rex that was found in South Dakota in the 1980s. The fabricated fossil, which was produced at a cost of $100,000, went on display in 1999  - with many visitors not realizing or caring that it is a cast.

The Natural History Museum's director, Kirk Johnson, told the Washington Post that the Smithsonian's incoming T. rex, found in 1988 in a federally owned Montana wildlife refuge, is about 80 to 85 per cent complete.

About 50 T.rex fossils had been found since the species identification in 1905, but only a quarter were considered nearly complete, meaning more than half of the dinosaur's bones were found.  

Each individual bone of the incoming T. rex will be packed into 16 specialized shipping containers this week, and driven across the country via FedEx.  

The fossil, which is of the most celebrated T. rex specimens discovered thus far, was found in 1988 by Kathy Wankel while taking a walk with her husband in eastern Montana's Fort Peck Reservoir.  It became the property of the federal government, who then donated it to the local museum in Montana.

The T. rex will be loaned to the Smithsonian for 50 years and will go on display in 2019.  



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