Some say it’s the end of an era at The Field Museum. SUE the T. Rex, the most complete skeletal example of their kind, came to be in Stanley Field Hall in 2000. Named after Sue Hendrickson who discovered them in South Dakota in August of 1990, SUE went on to become an iconic part of the Field. It’s hard to miss that toothy grin when you first walk in the West entrance, and SUE’s social media star shines pretty brightly. So when it was announced that SUE would move from their prominent post, the initial reaction was a little less than stellar. But, as the tyrannosaur pointed out on their own Twitter account, there’s no reason to panic. In fact, change is good!
The first order of business, which began yesterday at noon, is carefully taking all of SUE’s parts apart, cataloguing them and storing them. SUE’s usual enclosure has been walled off with a higher enclosure, which will remain there through the estimated 3 to 4-week process of fully disassembling. Yesterday, a two-man crew worked for several hours, taking apart both of SUE’s feet, with the next goal being the tail.
In case you hadn’t heard it from SUE’s own mouth on Twitter, they’ll be moving to a “private suite” on the second floor of the Field Museum. The suite should help to put SUE in better context, with the sorts of plant and animal life that they would have naturally been surrounded by when alive. This suite is being built adjacent to the Evolving Planet exhibit where many of SUE’s fellow dinosaurs permanently reside.
Another exciting development in the SUE story is this- since the time that SUE was installed, scientists have learned more about them. There were several bones that were not with the skeleton simply because it wasn’t known where they belonged, but in the years following SUE’s arrival, it’s been discovered that these were their gastralia bones. This doesn’t just mean that SUE will be more complete when they go up in their own suite, but also that they’ll be able to be positioned in a more upright fashion. When we talked to some of the Field’s docents yesterday, they mentioned that this, combined with the private suite, will help to give people a better sense of SUE’s scale. As things were, the cavernous expanse of Stanley Field hall tended to dwarf even a “giant murderbird” SUE’s size.
Stanley Field Hall, which has already gone through many changes in the years since the museum’s doors opened, will see a few major additions. The first, and biggest (quite literally) will be the arrival of a Patagotitan mayorum. The titanosaur, as it’s commonly known, is the largest known dinosaur, and the huge skeletal cast the museum is receiving will fill much of SUE’s old haunt and then some, with its head so high that visitors will be able to take second floor selfies with the skull.
The Field Museum is also planning huge hanging gardens, which will add a nice touch of greenery and life to the hall, and also serve as a bit of an acoustic dampener, a plus for those hosting events there in the future. The final touch will be one more prehistoric pal- this time a flying friend. The quetzalcoatlus replica is currently under production and when finished will be flapping along happily at the titanosaurus’ tail end.
It’s a lot to take in, and here in Chicago, we rarely embrace change (See “Sears Tower,” “Field’s” and various other landmarks we rightfully won’t accept renames on) but the new SUE suite promises to be a chance to get to know SUE even better. Giving anything more context, and bringing all the pieces together, helps everyone to learn more, and instead of looking at it as something we’ll be missing out on, though SUE will be off display for a while, it’s a great chance to embrace the new and learn more. Besides, it’s not like SUE’s ever going to stop tweeting, no matter where they go.
Visitors to the Field Museum can see the disassembly process in action all through February, and fortunately, this also coincides with Free February at the museum, meaning all Illinois residents who can show proof of residency will be able to observe the disassembly if they so choose. For more information on the Field Museum and the special exhibits that are currently on display, click here. To follow the progress of Sue’s move, check out #SueontheMove on Twitter.
(Video of SUE’s disassembly via Marielle Shaw, Third Coast Review, on Youtube.)