Din-O-Mite Exhibit on the Prowl

Tyrannosaurus rex and his relations are doing the museum circuit

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

`JURASSIC Park'' fans, hungry for more dino info can get a second helping at Boston's Museum of Science.

``The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park,'' is a lively display that helps separate fact from fiction through the use of movie props, dinosaur reconstructions, and fossils - including two of the largest dinosaur eggs ever found. Never before publicly displayed, the football-sized eggs were recently discovered in China and belong to the late Tarbosaur bataar, Asian cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Riding a wave of unabashed dino-mania, the exhibit features eight life-sized dinosaur models made from casts used for the popular film. Videos of clips from the movie accompany these mighty creatures, shown amid a green, jungle-like setting. Meanwhile, viewers learn fact from fantasy through placards and interpreters.

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``Some things we know were wrong [in the movie] and some things we say, `Well, maybe they were wrong or maybe they weren't.' But I think that's why people were intrigued,'' says Lynn Baum, Museum of Science exhibit planner. ``They want to know what is the line between science and fantasy.''

The difference can be greater than many realize. Take the Velociraptor. Rather than being the size of a human as shown in the film, scientific evidence suggests these reptiles were probably the size of wolves. Hollywood shows the Dilophosaurus as a poison-spitting creature with a colorful frill around its neck. Yet evidence shows that these creatures neither spit poison nor had colorful frills, though they did have a bony crest on each side of the head as the movie showed.

As for the ferocious flesh-eating Tyrannosaurus rex, the movie depicts this critter as a much faster-moving animal than it was.

``No dinosaur could keep pace with a Ford explorer,'' says Don Lessem, founder of the Dinosaur Society, a nonprofit research group that organized the exhibit.

REAL dinosaurs were ``a little less nasty, a little less fast, and a little less smart'' than the movie showed, Mr. Lessem says. Nevertheless, Hollywood helped generate lots of new interest in dinosaurs, he says, and that's good. In the five months since the movie was released, membership requests for his organization increased four-fold. Scientific dinosaur exhibits that piggyback on Jurassic Park enthusiasm are a great educational opportunity, he says.

Parents like Denise Biano agree. She says the exhibit is especially educational for children, since they ``are not seeing it in a dramatic setting, but in a scientific way.'' Even adults are into the dinosaur craze, mostly because of the movie.

``[Visitors] are coming in already knowing a lot and wanting to know more,'' says Michele Karpf, media-relations assistant at the Museum of Science.

Other museums are finding the same thing. Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History's dinosaur exhibit attracted phenomenal interest over the summer and fall, says Marge Kuhlmann, public-relations officer at the museum.

``Dinosaur Visions: Science and Fiction in Jurassic Park'' featured robotic dinosaurs that growled and moved. Museum attendance doubled compared with last year's summer/fall exhibit, Ms. Kuhlmann says.

``You never know, some kids might come to our museum because they saw the movie,'' she says. ``And when they see the real thing - when they see fossils - they may say, `I want to go on a dig, I want to do that.' ''

In Boston until Jan. 9, the traveling exhibit made its first stop in June at New York's American Museum of Natural History. After Boston, it will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, then to Minneapolis, and last to Cleveland. A smaller version of the exhibit is currently on display in Rome. Half the proceeds of the traveling exhibit will go to the Dinosaur Society.

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