Children's Museum Opens Dinosaur Exhibit

A new exhibit at the Children's Museum, in West Hartford, will allow guests to experience the dinosaurs that roamed in their own backyards.

The exhibit, which opened Feb. 18, was created specifically for the museum, and will be an ongoing addition to the museum's exhibitions. In fact, there are plans to grow the exhibit in two more phases.

"Typically, we rent an exhibit from another institution," said Beth Weller, the museum's director of operations. "This one is being made so it can grow in two more phases. That's a big piece of this one. It's being designed for us in a way we can make it larger."

The exhibit was a collaboration between the museum and the Dinosaur State Park, in Rocky Hill, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, in New Haven, and UConn's Center for Integrative Geosciences and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Those collaborators helped bring the science and history to the table, the museum said, and helped focus the exhibit on Connecticut's very own history with dinosaurs.

"There's a definite connection to Connecticut," Weller said. "That's why all those specific collaborators were brought in to help us with that information. It really has a focus on the discoveries that were made here."

"That's the whole center of the exhibit, Connecticut dinosaurs," said Nick Barnett, the museum's animal curator.

Weller said what makes this unique are the parts of the exhibit that allow for hands-on learning for children.

"Dinosaur exhibits are very prevalent in the museum world," Weller said. "A lot of them are very concentrated around the actual model of the dinosaur. We've taken a different approach. Instead of just having a model of the dinosaur, it's done in a hands-on approach for young children, versus just the visual effect of walking by a static dinosaur and reading information. The hands-on component is the thing that makes it the most unique."

Michael Werle, the museum's executive director, said the growth of the exhibit is important. The third phase, he said, would see the museum keeping the core and switching out parts for new ones.

"We use the word semi-permanent," Werle said. "The core of it will stay pretty consistent. This is phase one of that core. We'll grow out and almost double the amount of content in the next phase. It will stay evergreen. There are so many subject matters this relates to, so we'll determine which ones are timely and move those in."

The exhibit will feature fossils that are 200 million years old, among other dinosaur curiosities loaned to the museum from the collaborators. There will also be a 6-foot dinosaur femur that will be on display. Werle hopes the involvement of those collaborators sparks an interest in what they have to offer.

"They were all very instrumental in the conceptual design and have actually contributed pieces that will show up," Werle said. "The one thing we want people to come away from this is that they learn enough that they want to go to those sites. We will be getting people interested and excited. It'll be quite unique."

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