West Coast's Largest Dino Hall to Open in LA

Two two-story galleries filled with specimens from around the world will open in Los Angeles July 16.

Los Angeles Natural History Museum will unveil Dinosaur Hall, the west coast's largest dinosaur exhibit featuring a 70 percent complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, one of the 10 most complete specimens in the world.

Unfortunately it's on July 16, right in the middle of Carmageddon.

Situated evenly between the 110 and 10 freeways, the Natural History Museum may have to compete for visitors with snarled roads from the 405 weekend closure, but they see a silver lining.

"We're not too bummed because it's a permanent exhibit," said Kristin Friedrich, director of communications for the museum. "We're going to post alternate routes on our site and suggest people come at us from the east."

The 14,000 square-foot Dinosaur Hall exhibit, twice as large as the museum's last dinosaur installation, is expected to draw enough visitors that the museum has established a reservation policy.

Visitors are not asked for additional fees but they are required to sign up for a specific time to view the specimens.  The hall's capacity is about 800 visitors per hour.

"We don't want any bottlenecks or crowds," Friedrich said. "We want visitors to enjoy their experience."

The first three and a half hours of the hall's opening are booked so far, with 2,800 tickets already reserved.

The exhibit has taken five years to complete and its creators spanned the globe to gather its specimens. The most anticipated of which is a Tyrannosaurus rex, named Thomas, whose construction was performed in public through a lab visible from the former exhibit and still contained in the new one.

It took a team at the Dinosaur Institute three summers to transport the fossils from Montana after an amateur fossil hunter discovered what he thought might be a T-rex bone.

"He called a museum in Montana but they weren't interested, so he called us," Friedrich said. "We knew it was a T-rex, but we didn't know it would be a super awesome T-rex."

Thomas, whose piecing together began in 2008, is one of the top 10 most complete T-rex specimens ever found. A rare 70 percent of his skeleton has been found, with the remaining 30 percent sculpted from casts of existing fossils.

"The number one question we get is, 'Is this real?'" Friedrich said. "The majority of what we have is real. To see these 65 million year old bones in front of you is trippy."

She added that the museum remounted its specimens on platforms that allow visitors to get close enough to the bones that changes in hue and scratches from tectonic movement is visible.

Friedrich said the exhibit's construction, including colorful murals that display four major questions about the history of dinosaurs and summarize portions of the exhibit, caters to day-tripping moms as well as serious museum goers.

"A stroller mom can glean the main ideas (from the murals) and we now have interactive touch screen stations that allow users to excavate fossils and see the behind the scenes science of paleontology," she said.

The thirst for knowledge and education has played a major role in the creation of LA's major dinosaur exhibit, Friedrich said.

"Kids come through our museum and they know more about dinosaurs than their parents," she said.  "We were missing a proper hall."

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