Last week I joined the queue to re-visit our famous giant, moving T. rex in the Dinosaurs Gallery. I felt the buzz of excitement and anticipation as we got closer to the pit and the faraway roars got louder. I've visited T. rex many times, but that roar and the mist from the pit just before you turn the corner, always gets me.
Re-live the roar in this short clip of T. rex in action
Visitors arriving now from all over the world to marvel at the Museum's star attraction won't probably know that our T. rex has recently been absent from the Dinosaurs Gallery for about 5 weeks. This disappearance was due to a serious operation involving a hip replacement, major cosmetic surgery, and some much-needed pit improvements. Well, poor T. rex is after all, about 65 million years old and it's a challenging job frightening Museum visitors day after day.
Perhaps it was my imagination, but as I walked past the noticeably swampier-looking pit, I thought I saw a twinkle in those small, ferocious eyes. I'm sure T. rex is glad to be back in business. (In our busiest weeks T.rex can attract up to 50,000 visitors a week.)
It was engineers Steve Suttle and Martin Kirkby who carried out the highly skilled replacement of T. rex's strained hip joint parts and neck. These T.rex bits had got very worn through, so the new joints and parts mean smoother motion, all the better to scare us with. Technician Rob Lewenstien did the careful cosmetic surgery on the silicone skin to smooth over cuts.
There was also major scenic work done on T. rex's pit by our Display and Conservation team, led by Claire Kelly. The team re-painted and re-defined the ground and water area in the pit and also re-worked the carcass which T. rex sniffs around. Extra foliage, tree stumps and plant stems have been added to get a more authentic swampy habitat. The picture below shows work in progress.
Finishing touches came from the Museum's SFX and Media Tech teams who have improved the lighting and the ambient soundtrack to better show off the pit and create a more atmospheric and dramatic display.
'The project showed off the wide range of skills in the Museum's in-house production teams,' enthused programme manager, Nick Sainton-Clark, 'and the engineering work was extensive but successful, so we shouldn't have to have this kind of closure for the foreseeable future.'
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Click on the images to enlarge them.