SIOUX FALLS — A Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue is back in South Dakota, but museum officials quickly discovered she was going to need a bigger home.
Workers preparing for the traveling exhibit had to add six vertical feet of space and temporarily remove a fourth-floor window to get the 42-foot-long, 13-foot-high model inside the Kirby Science Discovery Center.
‘‘We raised the ceilings, we raised the sprinkler pipes and she fit,’’ said Jon Loos, the Washington Pavilion’s vice president of operations.
The exhibit, a full-size traveling replica of a Tyrannosaurus unearthed from South Dakota more than 20 years ago, opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 5. The model was created using casts of the original bones.
The fossils were more than 90 percent complete when they were discovered in 1990, missing only a foot, one arm and a few ribs and vertebrae. The actual dinosaur resides at Chicago’s Field Museum, which purchased the 67 million-year-old dinosaur at auction for $8.4 million in 1997.
Sue is named after fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson. Hendrickson was working with the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research’s Peter Larson on Aug. 12, 1990, when she discovered the T-rex on a Cheyenne River Indian Reservation ranch operated by Maurice Williams. After writing Williams a check for $5,000, Larson and his staff excavated the fossils and brought them back to his institute in Hill City, S.D.
In May 1992, federal agents seized the dinosaur as evidence in a criminal case against the institute and company employees. Nearly all of the charges eventually were dropped, but Larson was sentenced to two years in federal prison on unrelated counts involving failure to report some financial matters and taking fossils from federal lands.
Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs stepped in and argued that the institute had no right to take Sue because the bones had been removed illegally from lands held in trust for Williams by the federal government. A judge agreed and gave custody back to Williams, who put the T. rex up for auction.
Erica Lacey, director of the Kirby Science Discovery Center, said the Field Museum’s continued study of Sue has helped explain how T-rex dinosaurs looked, how they moved and how their brains worked. The Sioux Falls center will use the traveling Sue to share some of that science.
‘‘We’ve learned a lot from Sue,’’ Lacey said.
The fourth-floor exhibit in Sioux Falls weighs about 3,500 pounds, and crews had to strategically place about 800 pounds of counterweights under the platform to evenly spread the weight load. To bring in Sue’s 6-foot-by-11-foot rib cage, crews had to remove a large window and use fork lifts to lift the ribs through the hole in the wall, Loos said.
‘‘We didn’t have the room through the building to get it in,’’ he said.
Loos said crews will have just 5 days in January to pack up Sue and send her down to her next gig in North Carolina.