ARTICLE: Why Museums Are Just As Important As Dino Films

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Dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. What is left of them is fossilised in the rocks, and it is in the rock that real scientists do real work.
— Dr. Alan Grant (Jurassic Park III)

What starts out as a dig at the work of In-Gen within the Jurassic Park films is an incredibly poignant pointer when it comes to how we reflect on paleontology within the modern day. Dinosaurs have never been so front and centre within the media. We have new Jurassic World films – bringing with them a plethora of merchandise ranging from books and informational computer device applications, to live-shows and exhibitions. It is true that all of this is doing wonders to reignite the imaginations of children (and big kids!) across the globe – but these materials only go so far. We know Jurassic Park has never been accurate – and this is where we find ourselves today. However – all is not lost. There are hardworking teams of paleontologists and researchers out there, and they work hard to deliver information and real-life artifacts from the prehistoric eras to our local museums.

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To encourage you to get out and explore your local museum, I’ve visited one of several museums which can be found in my home county of Kent – Maidstone Museum. Maidstone Museum is home to the National History Museum’s original pieces relating to the Iguanodon. Furthermore, Maidstone’s Coat of Arms is the only in the country to utilize a dinosaur, with the Iguanodon being a symbolic piece of local heritage as it was discovered in Sussex, which is just down the road from Kent. Learning more about this dinosaur set a nice precedent for my trip – and it was nice seeing the museum pay homage to a dinosaur of local relevance. Different dig sites exist across the globe – delivering more and more information on an era we though long-gone each day.  What Doctor Grant says in Jurassic Park III is very true – real scientists do real work within this field every day to help us realize what these creatures may have been like. And it is that value for these hardworking individuals that I want you to take away from this article. Don’t read up about these online – visit your local museum, and see physical history unfold in front of you.

Anyway, moving on – I had the opportunity to look at several different relics – from different prehistoric eras. These included a Smilodon Tooth (F7), a Megalodon Tooth (C9), bones from an Iguanodon, a Raptor’s Sickle Claw (A3), a Baryonyx Claw (A4) and a T-Rex tooth (A9). Seeing these was fascinating, as it really gives you a sense of the kind of scale which these creatures must have come in at. Even with our best animatronics and our greatest models, there is nothing quite like looking at fossils, bones and teeth to really imagine what these creatures may have been like. I think, for me, the most visual example is the Megalodon – and how many times bigger it’s teeth were than those of a normal shark. That sense of scale, then magnified by the entire shark, is truly insane – and it shows exactly how far history has come. This I think encapsulates nicely why Paleontology and prehistoric history is so interesting – because every little detail we find brings us a step closer to a clearer picture of these prehistoric giants.

I had a great day learning more about dinosaurs at my local museum – and now I’m handing the reigns to you. I recommend you head out and check out your local museum. Many of these are small organisations led by passionate people based upon funding and donations – and they have a wide assortment of enriching history that you may never expect to discover. There are many great museums out there – and many of them are free. Don’t just take the dinosaurs in these films at face value – get out there, appreciate some local heritage, and learn more about the history of these magnificent creatures.


 

Article Written By:
Tom Fishenden