The ArtScience Museum’s latest exhibition, Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction is an ambitious exhibition. Ambitious because it aims to present the history of dinosaurs, from pre-existence and to their demise, in a single exhibition.
Stomping into the basement at the ArtScience Museum from 25 January to 27 July 2014, Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction is said to be the largest dinosaur exhibition in South East Asia and has more than 400 fossils and models, along with 50 artworks, on display.
The exhibition draws on four different sources, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, San Juan National Science Museum in Argentina, Australia’s Monash University’s SCI!Expo and paintings from Australian artist, Peter Trusler. However, you would not suspect the different sources of the exhibition as it presents the chronological history of dinosaurs very coherently under the curation of Australian paleontologist Patricia Vickers-Rich.
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Life in the Ocean
After being greeted by four dinosaurs at the entrance, visitors are plunged into the world before the “terrible lizards”. In a gallery inspired by an oceanscape, visitors are taken to a time when life consisted of marine invertebrates such as ammonites.
Here, setting the tone for the rest of the galleries are little signs inviting visitors to touch-and-feel selected exhibits. In this regard, Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction is both experiential and interactive, allowing visitors to engage multiple senses throughout the exhibition to discover more about dinosaurs.
Ages of Dinosaurs
In simple terms, the natural history of dinosaurs can be divided into three periods. From the earliest to latest, these are the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous (TJC is be a good acronym to remember this by). This chronological order is broadly how the exhibition is laid out.
Interestingly, dinosaurs did not live alone but side-by-side with mammal-like reptiles that get featured in the exhibition too.
The various dinosaurs and mammal-like reptiles are depicted through both skeletal and “fleshed-out” specimens. At one of several activity corners, children can investigate the differences between dinosaurs, reptiles and mammals by touching “mock-ups” of the different skin types, sorting out skull shapes and piecing together the posture of different reptiles.
A highlight of the exhibition is a gallery that captures an epic battle scene between a Lessemsaurus sauropoids (a sauropod, i.e. large, four-legged, herbivorous dinosaur), and a crocodile-like reptile,Fasolasuchus tenax.
In the same gallery, visitors can investigate the difference in teeth structure of predatory carnivores and grazing herbivores (such as those in the battle scene).
The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods are represented in other galleries. In one of them, the Cretaceous period’s most notorious predator, Tyrannosaurus Rex, is on display.
Under the shadow of the T-rex, visitors can explore locomotion by playing around with different centres-of-gravity for the T-rex while a miniature T-rex model in a corner is physically animated to demonstrate how it would have likely moved.
Visitors also have the opportunity to touch real dinosaur fossils at Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction.
End of an Era
A depiction of the Liaoning Forest in China signals the impending end of the age of dinosaurs. In this exhibit, biodiversity is starting to flourish on land, under the water and in the air. Young children can try matching the pictures of the animals with the animal models in front of them.
Finally, the inevitable extinction of the dinosaurs is presented in the second-to-last gallery of the exhibition, closing out the story of the dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction Phone App
Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction is significant as it is the first exhibition that we have seen to effectively integrate the use of mobile devices with the physical exhibits.
A free app, available for both iPhones and Android devices, acts as a digital companion to the physical exhibition. Turn on the app, aim the camera at special wall markings and get access to unique content. (Links to download the app available here)
For example, at the battle scene gallery, the app displays a short video clip which helps visitors visualise the circumstances leading up to the ambush of the sauropod by the Fasolasuchus tenax.
Beyond the indoor exhibition area, the app can even be used at the outdoor Rain Oculus to get an augmented reality view of more dinosaurs.
On the flipside, parents may have to pull their kids’ noses out from the app as kids can get engrossed with the app (it contains a game that kids may end up playing incessantly) and end up not looking at the “real” exhibits on display.
Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction has clearly taken into consideration the crowds of young children expected to visit the exhibition. This is manifested by the many hands-on opportunities for children to interact with the exhibits.
In the final gallery before exiting the exhibition, children can discover more about dinosaurs through mini-experiments such as speaking into a microphone to compare the sound dinosaurs make with other animals, trying to match the stride of dinosaurs and peering into a magnifying glass to look at skin samples.
Kids will also enjoy the activity corner at the end of the exhibition where they can make their own dinosaur shadow puppets to bring home. As if that is not enough, at the shop beside the lift, kids can also construct a 3D paper dinosaur model.
One of the reasons why parents bring their kids to exhibitions such as Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction is to invoke a sense of wonder and amazement in them. By doing so, this tells the child that there is so much more in the world for them to explore and discover. In this respect, we think that the Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction exhibition has done a good job and is one exhibition that any dino-loving child should not miss.
Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction
ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Daily: 10 am to 7 pm
Last admission at 6 pm