‘Dueling Dinosaurs’ exhibit opens in Raleigh

(Photo courtesy N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences)

RALEIGH — The “Dueling Dinosaurs” fossil exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh opened to the public on April 27.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made an appearance to congratulate the museum staff and scientists on their work in making the exhibit a reality.

During his ceremony remarks, Cooper praised the eight years of work that went into making the exhibit happen and said that North Carolina was the best around a lot of areas, “but now we’re the best in dinosaurs.”

The governor participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the exhibit alongside officials from the museum using a tyrannosaur skull painted bright orange that housed a set of “tyrannoscissors” used to cut the ribbon.

The bones of a tyrannosaur and a triceratops, which were found buried together in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, are the centerpiece of the exhibit. The pair of uniquely preserved 67-million-year-old dinosaur bones will be worked on in the new cutting-edge SECU DinoLab. It’s the museum’s first major expansion in a decade.

“This fossil is a scientific frontier,” said Lindsay Zanno, head of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and associate research professor at NC State. “The preservation is phenomenal, and we plan to use every technological innovation available to reveal new information on the biology of the world’s favorite dinosaurs.”

The “Dueling Dinosaurs” exhibit has several interactive kiosks where visitors can build their own dinosaur or view and interact with a CT scan of a dinosaur skull. Various educational videos, bone replicas, habitat and ecosystem information, and details about paleontology as a science are also part of the experience.

N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary D. Reid Wilson called the exhibit a “must-see destination for dinosaur lovers everywhere.”

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ “Dueling Dinosaurs” exhibit opened last weekend. (A.P. Dillon / North State Journal)

Wilson praised the General Assembly and its leaders, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), for prioritizing funding for the project. He also thanked various corporate entities for their sponsorship of the project, including SECU Foundation, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Wake County and the Friends of the Natural Sciences.

SECU Foundation’s Chris Ayers told attendees at the ribbon-cutting event that the exhibit is “history in the making right here in Raleigh.”

A unique aspect of “Dueling Dinosaurs” is its live video feeds and regular research updates that can be accessed on-site and online. The live feeds will give the public unprecedented access to view the progress of the project.

“The whole thing is a grand experiment; nothing like this has ever been tried before with allowing the public to come in doing the research transparently in front of them,” Zanno told North State Journal. “We have a lot to learn as scientists and as a museum community about how to do transparent science, and I think we’re just going to be forging the way.”

Zanno said everyone on the project is “really thrilled” that kids worldwide “can experience the joy of discovery” through the live feeds of the work being done.

Zanno has more than 20 years of global experience in the field and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Utah.

Working alongside Zanno on the museum’s Paleo Team are SECU DinoLab manager Eric Lund and Jennifer Anné, assistant manager of the SECU DinoLab. Paleopathology, chemistry and bone history are Anné’s focus, while Lund has degrees in geology and geophysics.

Bolstering the educational value of the exhibit is “Cretaceous Creatures,” a project by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences aimed at middle school students.

Participants of the program, guided by eighth grade science teachers, will sift through sediment from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana where the “Dueling Dinosaurs” were found and identify microfossils of ancient animals.

Cretaceous Creatures provides free lessons and materials to eligible classrooms, thanks to support from The Bank of America Charitable Foundation. For more information or to register, visit cretaceouscreatures.org or contact project coordinator Elizabeth Jones at [email protected].