Gordo Romps at R.O.M.

Dec 16 2007 was one of the worst snowstorms in the last 60 years here in Toronto, lotsa snow, whiteout conditions, yadda yadda. I had to go see me some dinosaurs.

In my last post, I wondered -and worried and fretted- if the Royal Ontario Museum would have the same kind of information in its new Age of Dinosaurs and Age of Mammals displays as I witnessed this past summer at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; I need not have lost sleep.

Just brilliant.

I decided not to go all the way through the Stairs of Wonder in the new Crystal at the R.O.M., and instead wanted to seek out the way in from the original second floor galleries. So I walked down a small flight, into the Age of Mammals, and there is information everywhere for the active self-educator. This was the opening weekend, and there are a few specimens lacking info-cards (some with no identification at all), but clearly they are putting the finishing touches on the displays.

For example, I was not aware that our parasaurolophus is called the halotype, the specific fossil to which all other parasaurolophus fossils are compared. Fancy that.

At right is an early mammal, an oreodont, and it looks like some predator only licked out the soft middle and left the cookie parts intact.

One of the biggest -haha- reasons for the delay in being finally prepared, has to be Gordo, the barosaurus found after being lost in the basement for the last 40 years, and hastily, carefully, accurately put on display in time for the opening. Named after the late curator Gordon Edmund who acquired him for the R.O.M., Gordo is a thrill.

Gordo the barosaurus shakes-that-thing and shows why he is called "The Moneymaker". Check out those hips baby!

At about 85 feet long, you can't actually stand back far enough in the gallery to take him in in one view without at least flicking your eyes from tailtip to dashing smile. There are videos of David Evans, the palaeontologist who rescued Gordo, discussing some of the more important fossils on the display. Perhaps my one complaint is the volume on these needs to be turned down a bit.

A great day. Excellent casts from the feathered dinosaur exhibit that toured from China a while back, and the Age of Mammals is so full of specimens and placards, you could spend a couple of hours looking at our fuzzy cousins.

A look at Gordo from outside.

At the dromeosaur display, I had to whip out my sketchbook and just start drawing. There were some fossil birds in there, wing-feather impressions clearly visible, and I just had to draw. Other itchy-finger artists out there will know what I mean: Leslie, Nancy, Jesse, and the other artists on my blogroll know what I mean! You see it, you just have to capture it. I'll refine the sketch a bit more and post it later. Perhaps after that bird gets identified.

Back into the snow, exhilarated, inspired, happy and proud of the museum I have loved my whole life. The new Crystal addition is shaping up to be grand. I paid a visit to the original facade that had me entranced so much as a child.

And so, to home.

Tyrrell Dinosaurs educate, will the R.O.M.?

Later today the Royal Ontario Museum will open the second floor of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal to card-carrying members who want to see two new galleries: Gallery of the Age of Mammals, and even further back into prehistory, the (takeadeepbreath!) James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs.

This got me thinking back to my seminal trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum this past July, and what I liked about how the Tyrrell displayed it's prehistoric beauties. And something in particular comes to mind.

Education.

The most effective displays are the ones that let everyone, young and old, explore the featured fossils at their own level. Like this globe wall (above) at the Royal Tyrrell Museum highlighting ceratopsians. Or the Tyrrell's Cretaceous Garden, complete with waterfall and humidity.

What's most effective is when there are three levels of text, allowing people to read as deeply as they choose. Something like this:


Glendon Mellow, 80' long, 90 tons. b.1974
-

This species of artist grazed on the fossil-fields
of prehistory to create his paintings.

The Glendon was discovered by Page 3.14 and featured in a ScienceBlogs interview. He later went on to produce a logo for Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle, and this led to
fame and fortune. Eventually, he blew this fortune on a new micron brushes and began a series of dinosaur paintings on shale, all of which featured barosaurus with large moustaches and Rip Van Winkle beards rendered in stunningly tiny detail.
The three layers of text allow each visitor to become as engaged as they like. For myself, and many other children, I can remember poring over these captions and devouring each word.

I am a big fan of the R.O.M.'s Crystal, and I have high hopes about how the dinosaur collection will fill the industrial-postmodern caverns. The lights that pores into the Crystal should heighten the drama.

Here are some photos I took at the Tyrrell this summer of how the information could look at the R.O.M. if they let Gordo the barosaurus write his own entry.


These two skulls are part of a larger display explaining the varieties of ceratopsians. The Tyrrell is well-known for its Centrosaurs, (the one on the right), as the nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to a staggering number of their fossils.

Also, check out this howling Dire Wolf display from the Tyrrell's prehistoric Mammal Galleries(rampaging Orcs not included). It's chillingly posed as though still alive, and the wall behind is a montage in information in easy to chew on morsels, (much like this blog).

Both museums have impressed me a lot this year, and as I've stated elsewhere, I've had a lifelong fascination with the Royal Ontario Museum. It was my birthday destination of choice as a child and pre-teen. A spectacular illustration at the Tyrrell; unfortunately no artist credit!

The Royal Tyrrell Museum has a more robust collection of prehistoric fossils than the R.O.M., and that's appropriate, it is specialising and near bone beds. My feeling is that dinosaurs and mammals will be stunning in the Crystal; I just hope the information is there for kids like I was to explore as much as they can.

All photos above taken at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; photo credits to G. Mellow and an unnamed family member of his. Copyright the Tyrrell and the animals pictured. They love the paparazzi.)

Have you seen this Barosaurus?

A missing Barosaurus skeleton, 45% intact, has been found in the stygian depths of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Dazed and blinking, the barosaurus known only as Gordo was led out of the basement of the R.O.M. by his rescuer, Dr. David Evans. Gordo has not seen daylight since 1962, or his parents since 145 million B.P. (before present).

An appalling quantity of coprolites were found in Gordo's confined area of the museum's basement.

It has been speculated largely in the media that it may be difficult to reunite the long-confined sauropod with his family. Sources say they have not been sighted for about 145 million years, and were last seen carrying what may have been luggage, or a fern. Why they chose to leave the vulnerable 20 m ton Gordo behind remains a mystery.

Gordo, obviously shaken by his long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long ordeal, tried to lash out at photographers with his whiplike tail, and knocked a hotdog cart onto the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art's staircase. No one was injured and the steps are in good condition. Sources on the scene speculate this act may be due to Gordo's vegetarian lifestyle.

Artist Glendon Mellow rendered this conceptual drawing (above left) of what a missing poster may have looked like during Gordo's original estrangement from his parents and subsequent disappearance. An image like this is thought by some to have been circulated, possibly on a milk carton, or at least the Jurassic equivalant. Sources inside the museum claim there were no cows yet evolved when Gordo went missing. Other sources say, any artist who habitually paints wings on extinct aquatic arthropods is just nuts, but Mr. Mellow claims they are understandably jealous of his genius.

An excellent rendering by Michael W. Skrepnick of a barosaurus accompanied the newstand version of the story in the National Post.

Dr. Evans, the hero of this news story, has plans to reintroduce Gordo to society at the R.O.M.'s unveiling of its revamped dinosaur exhibit in the new Crystal galleries. The late Dr. Gordon Edmund is credited with the acquisition of this exciting fossil skeleton.