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Review: Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum is a Blast From the Past With an Eye On the Future

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

We’re at a high point in dinosaur hype right now, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stomping into the box office and raking in almost 2 billion dollars thus far, stores still full of dino merch, and new Jurassic World video games to take you further inside the park than you perhaps could ever be otherwise.  

Máximo is the Field Museum’s biggest new addition. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

We’re also at a high point for the Field Museum, which is about to be celebrating its 125th anniversary, and has rebranded, restrategized and redesigned, and keeps coming to the table with amazing science, innovative exhibits and fantastic events to celebrate. Most recently, after the addition of Maximo and the hanging gardens in Stanley Field Hall, and the ongoing work to give SUE their own suite, the Field Museum has gone to the dinosaurs again, with their newest exhibit, Antarctic Dinosaurs on display now and featuring some amazing artifacts as well as specimens so new they haven’t been scientifically described or named yet.  

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

Antarctic Dinosaurs is so much more than fossils on display. It takes the amazing specimens found by head paleontologist Pete Mackovicky (who we recently talked to about Maximo) and his team of scientists and places them in context with where they were found and the environment they lived in. If that wasn’t enough, it also has visitors quite literally strap in to go along for the ride.  

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

In Antarctic Dinosaurs, you’ll be walking through the real-life adventures of Pete Mackovicky, Nate Smith, Associate Curator of The Dinosaur Institute at the National History Museum of LA County and their team of scientists as they travel to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, complete cold weather training and try to make it to Mt. Kirkpatrick where they’ve been uncovering amazing new specimens that tell them more about the world of the dinosaurs. This narrative unfolds in amazingly drawn comic book panels that are narrated by the men and show some of what they go through in their journeys. 

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

One of our favorite things about the exhibit is that it tells so many stories. Walking into the first room of the exhibit you might be confused. Wasn’t this about dinosaurs? It is, but it’s also about the expeditions. You’ll see a timeline which details the history of expeditions to the region, the first fossils ever recorded there, and pieces of the story of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition, including an actual sledge from their journeys, and some of their personal effects. You’ll also take a look at the gear that you would wear if you were to venture forward today with Mackovicky and his team, and get a chance to watch a video of the men going through vital survival training at base camp. 

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

As you travel further through the exhibit, you’ll also learn about Antarctica in the time before the dinosaurs and meet some of the creatures that inhabited it, but before long you’ll be back with Mackovicky and crew—this time on Mt. Kirkpatrick doing some excavating. You’ll see footage of the team in the field, handle some of the equipment used and even see part of the lab scientists use at the base. 

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

And then…you’ll meet the dinosaurs. In particular, you’ll come face to face with Cryolophosaurus ellioti,  a dino with a stylish pompadour that helped scientists discover important similarities between it and the North American species Dilophosaurus. There’s a full cast but you can also examine the dino’s skull and neck vertebra and find out more about what they tell scientists, before seeing a fully fleshed out version of him in context with his environment.  

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

We won’t spoil everything for you, as there’s some amazing discoveries to be made within the walls of Antarctic Dinosaurs even beyond this point—including those two brand-new specimens that remain unnamed, but suffice it to say there is plenty to learn from this point. Contextualizing the dinosaurs and their environment and continuing a dialogue through the modern day narrative help bring the story and the dinosaur adventures to life in a way that takes it out of the very very distant past and right on into the present and even future.  

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

It’s very easy to relegate dinosaurs and paleontology as a whole to the “old news” category. After all, these were creatures that came long before us, and that we can no longer observe. But in fact, new ground is being broken all the time, especially in these field expeditions. The things that you’ll see in Antarctic Dinosaurs are quite literally things you can’t see anywhere else in the world and represent science in action—discoveries still being made, information still being gathered, and it’s all right here for you to observe. It’s exciting and represents the bleeding edge of paleontology, and instead of keeping it to the labs and offices behind the walls of Stanley Field Hall, it’s all right in front of you. 

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

Antarctic Dinosaurs highlights one of the best things about the museum you can’t always see right in front of you—the amazing science happening there every day. Pete Mackovicky is a real person that we could and did talk to, and that you too can meet, but he and his team are also the Indiana Joneses of an amazing tale of the pursuit of science in a dangerous environment, bringing back and piecing together the stories of these amazing creatures that lived so long ago. For us, that’s more than worth the price of admission. You can find out more about Antarctic Dinosaurs, which will run at the Field Museum through January 2019, by clicking here. 

 

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