Dinosaurs and Deities
Ever since dinosaur bones were first discovered in the 19th century, they have captivated kids and adults alike. Now, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI), one of the world’s largest children’s museums, has announced a $27.5 million dinosaur excavation involving a team of more than 100 international scientists. Couple that with two significant new exhibits highlighting Greek artifacts and culture, and 2019 is shaping up as a milestone year for the museum.
The dinosaur project, called Mission Jurassic, is being led by TCMI, which selected experts from museums and universities around the world. The endeavor involves an extraordinarily rich 640-acre paleontology dig site in Wyoming called “The Jurassic Mile.” It’s produced almost 600 specimens in just the past two years, and some of the finds have been brought back to TCMI.
The museum has a permanent dinosaur exhibit called “Dinosphere: Now You’re in Their World” that includes Leonardo, a Brachylophosaurus discovered mummified, with 90% of its body still covered in fossilized soft tissue, allowing scientists to see its skin, scales, footpads, and stomach contents. The exhibit also includes Dracorex hogwartsia, a new dinosaur officially named by museum scientists to celebrate Hogwarts, the academy for wizards from the “Harry Potter” book series (the Latin translates to “Dragon King of Hogwarts.”)
“We continually search for high-quality, scientific specimens to augment our collection and enrich the lives of children and families who visit the museum,” says Dr. Jeffrey Patchen, the museum’s president and CEO. “We do so by sending our own team of paleontologists and scientists into the field. ... Now, we are exploring Wyoming as part of Mission Jurassic as we reveal fossils that are even older that we can add to our collection.”
TCMI’s Paleo Prep Lab provides a hands-on opportunity to learn about paleontology as paleontologists tell the stories of how real fossils were discovered. Visitors can touch the fossils, talk directly to the experts preparing them for display, and look for clues that show the types of dinosaurs the fossils belong to.
Greece of Yesterday and Today
TCMI now features two extensive new exhibits on Greece. “Understanding similarities in world cultures fosters awareness, acceptance, and respect for people from other societies and traditions,” Patchen tells Funworld. “Our goal is to help children and families overcome misconceptions by giving visitors a deeper understanding of Greece and the Greek people.”
“Treasures of Ancient Greece” hosts more than 200 rare antiquities and fine arts from the “land of the gods,” some of which have never been seen in the United States. Visitors discover how the ideas of the ancient Greeks form the basis of much of Western civilization through artifacts representing science, technology, medicine, and politics.
The exhibit includes an exact replica of the Antikythera mechanism. Believed to be the world’s first computer, it dates back to the end of the second century B.C. “We are very excited to share a model of what is believed to be the world’s oldest analog computer,” says Patchen. “It will help families understand how a civilization from long ago predicted eclipses of the sun and moon in relation to big events like the ancient Olympics.”
Also on display are sculptures of Artemis of Lafria and Heracles, a bust of Aristotle, and a large mosaic and pottery depicting gods, goddesses, and philosophers. The museum has stationed actor interpreters in the exhibition to help bring the stories to life.
“Take Me There: Greece” is one of the largest exhibitions on contemporary Greece ever presented in the United States. Families have the opportunity to “fly over” mountains and seas before “touching down” in Athens. “The museum created a delightful replica of a plane fuselage in which visitors are invited to have a seat,” says Patchen. “The immersive plane experience makes you feel as though you’re flying to Greece by providing families and children a video welcome message from a pilot as they look out their windows to see video scenery of the incredible Greek countryside. It’s made even more realistic as the seats ‘rumble’ during takeoffs and landings.”
Guests can “visit” a Greek plaza featuring a traditional taverna, a bakery, and art shops. There are also replicas of urban and small-town Greek homes. Costumed interpreters lead Greek folk dances as visitors listen to Greek music.
Patchen says TCMI worked directly with the Ministry of Culture in Greece to coordinate artifact loans from respected museums to make up the two new exhibits running through 2023.