Field Museum Debuts New Home For Tyrannosaurus Rex

Lisa Fielding
December 18, 2018 - 2:38 pm

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- SUE the T. rex has some new digs. The world’s biggest, best-preserved, and most complete T. rex was deconstructed bone by bone and moved from the Field Museum's Stanley Field Hall to a new space.

"You see this dinosaur as one big being and then you watch it be broken down bone by bone, it kinda reminds you of the process of excavation and discovery and then putting it all back together, it's been a very exciting time for us," said Hillary Hansen, Project Manager, Capital Projects, Exhibits Department.

The move started in February. Now SUE has a private suite, complete with sound, lighting, video screens and a narrated story about how SUE lived and might have died.

"There's a lot of things SUE wasn't doing in Stanley Field Hall. Our visitors were clamoring for a lot more information about SUE's world. What other plants and animals lived while SUE was alive 76 million years ago, so we did that," she said.

The new suite is 5,100 square feet and packed with interactive displays that show what scientists have learned about SUE over the years.

"We did that by adding real fossils that were found with SUE in the same quarry and other fossils of animals. We wanted to bring some context to the world in which SUE lived. We also added a 20-minute multi-media piece that flushes out, with high definition animations, what moments in life for SUE have been like," Hansen said.

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A narrated light show highlights specific bones on SUE’s skeleton, it illustrates healed broken ribs to a jaw infection that might have ultimately killed the dinosaur.

"SUE is now in the correct chronological timeframe, so you walk through the Dinosaur Hall and then you learn about SUE and then you learn about extinction, the age of mammals and up until human beings and beyond," Hansen said.

SUE is actually bigger, thanks to the addition of a set of bones that puzzled scientists when the fossil was first found.

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"We also made adjustments to SUE's pose. You can see the leg has been extended a little bit. We also added this gastrobasket, belly ribs which is an important addition to the specimen itself," she said.

The T. rex was found in the 1990's in South Dakota. The Field Museum bought SUE at auction and it debuted in 2000.

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"SUE's about 40 and a half feet long, 14 feet tall, in life we think she weighed about 18-19,000 pounds," said Bill Simpson, Geological Collections, Collections Manager, Fossil Vertebrates, Field Museum. 

"This was always the original concept to put SUE in context unlike what we were able to do in Stanley Field Hall. She was just another pretty face there," laughed Simpson.

"I've been in on the SUE project from the very beginning so I knew this was the original plan and its really satisfying to see it finally coming to fruition after 18 years."

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"We always knew we need to get this done as soon as possible. We originally set a March opening date, but we got it done by the holidays. We're thrilled with the new exhibit and we can't wait for everyone to see it. Our visitors missed SUE," Hansen said.

Simpson said dinosaurs continue to be of interest to scientists and visitors alike.

"We call it the Dinosaur Renaissance. It started in the late 60's and it shows no sign of it going away. There is now more paleontologists out there looking. There's an average of one new dinosaur species a week go, that's how fast we are going," he said.

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Scientists don’t know if SUE was male or female, so in the spirit of scientific accuracy and LGBTQ inclusivity, the Field Museum transitioned to singular “they/them” pronouns instead of calling SUE “she” or “her.”

The new suite opens to the public on Friday and is part of the general admission price.