‘SCENES OF DI­NOSAURS’

Mem­phis Pink Palace Mu­seum show­cases new ex­hibit.

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - FRONT PAGE - By John Bei­fuss bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com 901-529-2394

It’s easy to imag­ine the “Scenes of Di­nosaurs” ex­hibit now at the Mem­phis Pink Palace Mu­seum as the nat­u­ral-his­tory equiv­a­lent of the of­fer­ings at a small mul­ti­plex cin­ema.

Like the au­di­to­ri­ums in a movie the­ater, the scenes on dis­play inside the mu­seum’s up­stairs ex­hi­bi­tion hall present a va­ri­ety of strik­ing per­form­ers in emo­tional and some­times tense sce­nar­ios.

For fans of ac­tion block­busters, the ex­hibit of­fers a pair of Pachy­cephalosauruses, snort­ing and paw­ing in the mo­ment be­fore they butt the 10-inch-thick skulls inside their spiky block heads.

Pa­trons who pre­fer heart­warm­ing fam­ily entertainment may be drawn to the Ma­iasaura tableau, which de­picts a duck-billed her­bi­vore — the species name means “good mother di­nosaur” — with sev­eral of her chil­dren.

Gore­hounds, mean­while, can grok the ex­hibit’s most vi­o­lent scene, in which a pack of Deinony­chus — a Ve­loci­rap­tor-type di­nosaur whose name ac­cu­rately trans­lates from the Latin as “ter­ri­ble claw” — chew up a fallen Tenon­tosaurus.

Like many small boys, 3-year-old Sean Wind­miller of Fairfax, Vir­ginia — who was vis­it­ing the Pink Palace this week with his par­ents, Anne and Terry Wind­miller, and his twin sis­ter, Alaina — was par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by the din­ing Deinos and their bad ta­ble man­ners. “He asked if they were hav­ing a snack, like his gra­ham crack­ers,” Mrs. Wind­miller said.

“The way the kids in­ter­act with the di­nosaurs is re­ally one of the rea­sons we do this,” said Steven Masler, Pink Palace man­ager of ex­hibits. “There’s some­thing about the idea of these gi­gan­tic an­i­mals walk­ing the Earth at a time that’s ba­si­cally in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to us that re­ally cap­tures kids. And then the fact that they all be­came ex­tinct — there’s a ro­mance to it.”

On dis­play through Oct. 2, “Scenes of Di­nosaurs” is the Pink Palace’s big-draw at­trac­tion for the year. “You can’t beat di­nosaurs in the sum­mer­time,” af­firmed Ronda Cloud, mu­seum mar­ket­ing man­ager.

She said close to 20,000 vis­i­tors have ex­pe­ri­enced the “Scenes of Di­nosaurs” ex­hibit since it opened in early July. Close to 32,000 peo­ple likely will see it by the end of its run, mak­ing it a truly sub­stan­tial draw for a mu­seum that is ex­pected to have 120,000 vis­i­tors by the end of the year.

The “Di­nosaurs” ex­hibit fea­tures five “scenes” of ro­botic — and some­times life-size — di­nosaurs, de­signed to be as re­al­is­tic as pos­si­ble. The di­nosaurs are iden­ti­fied with sci­en­tif­i­cally ac­cu­rate and

fact-filled la­bels, and their star pres­ence is com­ple­mented by mini-dis­plays of re­pro­duc­tion di­nosaur eggs, touch­able di­nosaur “skin” and so on. (And don’t for­get to look up: A spike-beaked Pter­a­n­odon hangs from the ceil­ing.)

The pre­his­toric crea­tures in “Scenes of Di­nosaurs” were man­u­fac­tured in Japan for Kokoro Ex­hibits, one of sev­eral com­pa­nies that cre­ate di­nosaurs, ice age mam­mals, gi­ant in­sects and other an­i­ma­tronic at­trac­tions for mu­se­ums, amuse­ment parks, con­ven­tion cen­ters and so on. The di­nosaurs are pneu­matic, which means they are pow­ered by com­pressed air, in con­trast to the mo­tor­ized an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaurs of past ex­hibits. (The Pink Palace owns one of these more old-school crea­tures, a Tyran­nosaurus rex, which is on dis­play on the first floor.)

Wear­ing a “Re­unite Pan­gaea” T-shirt as he led a vis­i­tor through the ex­hibit, Masler, 62, said the Pink Palace hosts an an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaur ex­hibit ev­ery few years. In part, these shows help cover the costs of some of the more adult-ori­ented

and chal­leng­ing ex­hibits; more im­por­tant, Masler said, is the fact that many of the thou­sands of vis­i­tors ex­pected to at­tend “Scenes of the Di­nosaurs” will be young chil­dren and first-time or in­fre­quent mu­se­um­go­ers. The hope is the dino-ex­po­sure will con­vince new vis­i­tors that the Pink Palace is a fun rather than in­tim­i­dat­ing place.

“It’s like get­ting a cof­fee-ta­ble book about di­nosaurs,” Masler said of the ex­hibit. “It’s sup­posed to pique your in­ter­est, and maybe you’ll con­tinue to carry that in­ter­est and be­come more and more so­phis­ti­cated in your in­ter­est

in di­nosaurs, and also mu­se­ums.”

Masler said di­nosaurs have be­come so ubiq­ui­tous in pop cul­ture that a form of “bond­ing” has oc­curred be­tween them and us, even though — con­trary to the ev­i­dence of “The Flint­stones” and “One Mil­lion Years B.C.” — di­nosaurs were ex­tinct some 60 mil­lion years be­fore the first an­ces­tors of hu­mans ap­peared. “It is a cau­tion­ary tale,” he said, point­ing out that crea­tures that once to­tally dom­i­nated the Earth now ex­ist only as fos­sils, fic­tions and fan­cies, or as new types of post-di­nosaur an­i­mals.

Pho­tos By Jim We­ber/the Com­mer­cial AP­PEAL

Der­rick Ben­nett puts on his best scared-of-the-di­nosaurs face while pos­ing with his kids seren­ity (right), and lucian at the Pink Palace’s “scenes of Di­nosaurs” ex­hibit dur­ing a free tues­day at the mu­seum.

Jeia Knowles (right) goes full on di­nosaur as her daugh­ter, Vic­to­ria Knowles, and skye richards (left) push but­tons to con­trol a ro­botic di­noskele­ton.

Is­sac Her­nan­dez, 9, yells out to get his mom’s at­ten­tion as he leans into the T-rex jaws. The ex­hibit is ex­pected to draw close to 32,000 peo­ple by the end of its run on Oct. 2.

Kids get a chance to feel what a di­nosaur’s skin might have been like. “The way the kids in­ter­act with the di­nosaurs is re­ally one of the rea­sons we do this,” said Steven Masler.

Justin Warfield (cen­ter) digs for fos­sils as part of the Pink Palace’s in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibit “Scenes of Di­nosaurs” dur­ing a free Tues­day at the mu­seum.

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