Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Smithsonian - Dinosaur Exhibit

Friday morning, October 16, we arrived at the Natural History Museum at 9:00. We were met there by our two "tour guides". I use "tour guides" loosely, because the two gentlemen who guided us through the dinosaur exhibit are VIPs at the Smithsonian. Jerry Sachs is the Special Assistant to the Director and Head of NMNH Business Ventures (as best I can ascertain) and Matt Carrano is the Curator of Dinosauria. So we didn't just get a couple of high school volunteers to guide us!

We spent about an hour going through the dinosaur exhibit before it opened to the public. Anthony got to see every fossil (or cast of a fossil) up close and he got to really take his time looking at each one. He asked a lot of good questions, according to the paleontologist. I wouldn't know; I don't know much about dinosaurs, except that the T-Rex was huge, the Triceratops had three horns and the Ankylosaurus had a clubbed tail. Anthony stayed "on task" better than I have ever seen him do before. He was so interested in everything the paleontologist had to say and really listened when Matt talked to him.

From there, we went behind the scenes to where the museum keeps the fossils that are not on display. Anthony got to hold a T-Rex tooth, Woolly Mammoth hair (fur?), Saber Tooth Tiger teeth, dinosaur dung, and a few other things. We also saw a preserved "steak" from a Woolly Mammoth. The paleontologist even said that some people have eaten Woolly Mammoth steaks since they've been perfectly preserved in ice! He said that he's not tried it, and that from what he understands, there's almost no tasted so the only point in eating it is to say that you've done so.

After that we moved on to the paleontology lab. Anthony got to meet other paleontologists, paleobiologists, and excavators. He got to hold a few of the tools they use for excavation purposes and (I think) he got to chip at a little of the rock holding a bone "captive". He got to play in the sand that is used to hold the bones in place while the paleontologists try to put the puzzle together before they begin to glue pieces together. We saw fossils preserved in sediment (trilobites, I think) and then moved on to a large room where they are putting together another dinosaur (I called it an Allosaurus, Anthony corrected me and said it's a Camptosaurus. Please excuse my error). I was truly interested here; the paleontologist showed me where this animal most likely suffered from an infection of the bone, and that it may likley have been what killed that dinosaur. Finally, we were on my level. Osteomyelitis I can understand! :)

From there we wandered back to the dinosaur exhibit. It was crowded now with people, but Matt still answered a few more of Anthony's questions and gave us his undivided attention. He suffered willingly through more pictures, too!

This visit alone made the entire trip worth it. To see Anthony's face when he was deep in discussion with the paleontologist was priceless. He looked like a little man. And I'm so proud of him because he truly held his own in the discussion. This was undoubtedly a dream come true for Anthony - and for ME!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a crazy cool trip. I never knew all the neat things that are behind the scenes. Dino dung! Say what? I'm so glad Anthony and the whole family had a great time. Anthony is one amazing kid to choose such a wonderful wish. Love, Rochelle Eisnaugle