FIELD DITCH­ING SUE FOR A NEWER MODEL

Chicago Sun-Times - - TAKE 2 - Email: mark­brown@ suntimes. com MARK BROWN @ MarkBrownCST

SUE the di­nosaur is spe­cial, we were told. “The largest, most com­plete and best pre­served Tyran­nosaurus rex skele­ton ever dis­cov­ered,” was the boast that re­mains true to this day.

Her ar­rival in Chicago in May of 2000 breathed new life into The Field Mu­seum, and in turn, made Chicago more spe­cial as the home of the world’s great­est di­nosaur fos­sil.

Now we learn that SUE will be moved early next year from her po­si­tion of honor on the mu­seum’s main floor to make way for a new skele­ton of an even larger di­nosaur, Patagoti­tan may­o­rum, the largest known to man.

Ex­cept this new di­nosaur, some­times called a ti­tanosaur, isn’t a fos­sil at all but a fiber­glass cast.

A model, if you will. A re- cre­ation. A com­pos­ite pieced to­gether from six dif­fer­ent Patagoti­tan fos­sil spec­i­mens re­cov­ered in Ar­gentina be­cause they didn’t have even one as com­plete as Sue.

The Ar­gen­tinian folks were nice enough to sell us a copy of theirs. They sold the first copy to the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory in New York, which put it on dis­play more than a year ago. How spe­cial. Or should I say: That’s show busi­ness.

It’s no real se­cret why the folks who run The Field Mu­seum suc­cumbed to the 17- year- itch and cast aside the old girl.

Mu­se­ums run on money. They need vis­i­tors. To at­tract vis­i­tors, they con­stantly must evolve and change, of­fer some­thing new.

Even as Field of­fi­cials tried to ex­plain how SUE will be bet­ter off with a new, more sci­en­tif­i­cally ac­cu­rate de­pic­tion on the sec­ond floor as part of its Evolv­ing Planet ex­hibit, the mu­seum’s main at­trac­tion of the mo­ment is Juras­sic World, a trav­el­ing Hol­ly­wood ver­sion of di­nosaur life based on the movie.

With its kid- friendly an­i­ma­tron­ics and pseudo- sci­ence about recre­at­ing di­nosaurs with DNA taken from mos­qui­toes, Juras­sic World is the fu­ture of mu­se­ums.

And I have no doubt that the ti­tanosaur, which at 122 feet in length will dwarf the 40.5 foot long SUE, will be a ma­jor at­trac­tion.

Not only will it cre­ate an eye­pop­ping im­pres­sion for any­one step­ping into Stan­ley Field Hall,

“THE BAR­RI­CADES ARE HERE FOR A REA­SON. THIS IS FRAG­ILE. THIS IS ONCE IN A LIFE­TIME. A CAST CAN BE MADE AGAIN.’’ KATHER­INE RYAN, on why the Field Mu­seum should not re­place SUE on the main floor with a model of a ti­tanosaur

but un­like SUE, vis­i­tors will be al­lowed to walk be­neath it and touch it be­cause, af­ter all, it’s not real.

Casey Roth and Kather­ine Ryan, a pair of 24- year- olds from Peo­ria, were rev­er­ently ap­prais­ing SUE when I ap­proached them Wed­nes­day and ex­plained the mu­seum’s plans. Both were non­plused.

Ryan, a self- de­scribed “di­no­junkie,” said re­plac­ing SUE’s fos­silized re­mains with a cast would di­min­ish the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It takes away the aes­thetic and the awe of it,” she said. “This is real. This is preser­va­tion of life in its most raw form. I think I would be a lot less ex­cited about that than see­ing this, and I’ve been talk­ing about see­ing this for months.”

“The bar­ri­cades are here for a rea­son,” she added. “This is frag­ile. This is once in a life­time. A cast can be made again. You can make that a dozen times over if you re­ally wanted to.”

I’m not sure why this ir­ri­tates me so much. Maybe it’s be­cause I still re­mem­ber the hype of SUE’s ar­rival like it was yes­ter­day.

I even re­mem­bered there was a nam­ing con­test, although I’d for­got­ten how it turned out.

“Dakota” was the public’s choice, picked for the lo­ca­tion where the T. rex bones were found. But of­fi­cials re­al­ized that might get con­fus­ing with all the other branded stuff out there with that name, such as the pickup truck. So they over­ruled the masses and went with SUE for her dis­cov­erer, Sue Hen­drick­son.

Or maybe it’s be­cause I al­ways tell peo­ple I’m a liv­ing di­nosaur fac­ing ex­tinc­tion as a gen­eral in­ter­est daily colum­nist for a ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan daily news­pa­per.

The mu­seum hasn’t de­cided yet whether to give its new ti­tanosaur a name.

My sug­ges­tion is Gi­no­bili. Find an­other di­nosaur to ex­plain it to you.

| MARK BROWN/ SUN- TIMES

Casey Roth and Kather­ine Ryan were dis­ap­pointed to learn that SUE, the T- rex, will be moved from its place of promi­nence at The Field Mu­seum next year to make way for a fiber­glass cast of the world’s largest di­nosaur.

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