HAYS, KS -- Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History will likely be the only venue in the middle United States to show "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs."
Before coming to the Sternberg Museum, the exhibit had traveled inland only as far as Cincinnati in the east and Phoenix in the west. The next two stops after the Sternberg Museum are Hawaii and Alabama as the exhibit nears the end of its five-year tour.
The Sternberg Museum presents an unusual opportunity for the people of Kansas and adjacent states. "Jurassic Park," like "A T.rex Named Sue" before it, were exhibited primarily in major cities, with Hays, population 20,000, the only exception. FHSU's Sternberg Museum, which enjoys a worldwide reputation for the quality of its collections, is able to draw such major exhibits.
"Jurassic Park" is a huge exhibit, not only in terms of its physical size but in the science on display in the largest collection of fossils and fossil casts on tour.
The centerpiece specimen is an exact cast of a fossil that was discovered in 1993, a creature that in life was even larger and more awe inspiring than the Tyrannosaurus rex. The fossil of Giganotosaurus (JIG-a-NO-to-SAW-rus), discovered in Patagonia, Argentina, is more than 80-percent complete and is kept in the Museo Carmen Funes in Plaza Huincul, Argentina.
The exhibit's collection of a dozen full-mount fossil casts and other fossils include several recently discovered species that have never been on display in North America except in this exhibit.
But the fossil collection also has creatures that have been known to paleontologists and aficionados for some time, including one, a full-mount fossil skeleton in this exhibit, that has particular interest for the Sternberg Museum -- the Stegoceras (ste-GOS-uh-rus), a small bonehead dinosaur whose name is similar to the more familiar but much larger Stegosaurus (STE-guh-SAW-rus). The first complete skull and most of the skeleton of this animal were discovered in 1921 in Canada by George F. Sternberg, the museum's namesake. The fossil found by Sternberg was eventually discovered to be the very first specimen of an entire family of dinosaurs. The Sternberg Museum has in its holdings a cast of the skull of that animal, and now has, while this exhibit is here, a cast of the skeleton discovered by Sternberg.
In addition to the scientific and educational emphasis of the exhibit, "Jurassic Park" also includes two other parts, a dozen "fleshed out sculptures" of species and also props and sculptures from the movies Jurassic Park and Lost World. The sculptures and movie props funnel the visitor into the truly fascination area where the skeletons and fossils are on display.
Other special events are planned in conjunction with "Jurassic Park's" stay at the Sternberg Museum. Two of the premier paleontologists in North America and the world will visit the museum and give presentations at the university: Dr. Jim Kirkland, Utah state paleontologist and discoverer of the Utahraptor, and Dr. Phil Currie, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
Kirkland is scheduled to appear in March and Currie in April.
"Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" is a production of Dinosaur Exhibitions under license from Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment. All Universal/Amblin royalties and a portion of ticket revenues are donated to international dinosaur research.
The exhibit will be at the Sternberg Museum through May 5.
Tickets are available by calling, toll free, 1-877-332-1165. A Web site, www.jparkdinos.com, is also available for ticket sales and information. Pre-sale ticket prices are $6 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens. At the door it will be $7 adults, $5 children and senior citizens.
The various levels of museum memberships, which can be purchased at the museum's front desk, entitle holders to free admission at all times.