Gigantic T. rex! at Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium

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Me with Matt Brown (Chief Preparator, UT Austin) and Mike Eklund (Vehement Pioneer of Methods & Materials in Paleontology) at the base of the world’s largest T. rex in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada

FPCS2013The 6th annual FPCS in Drumheller Canada was a wonderful trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Dinosaur Provincial Park.  Had a chance to meet and socialize with colleagues from many institutions.  This conference has doubled in size in the six years since the first meeting in 2008 at Petrified Forest National Park.

The mornings were filled with talks on how collections storage and preparation techniques have changed over the history of paleontology.  As collections grow and age proper care is required to maintain what has already been collected, as well as how to care for newly acquired specimens.  In the afternoons we were able to tour the museum, collections, laboratories and offices as well as participate in hands on workshops relating to methods on preparation and collections.  This is the best part for me.  I love to see how other institutions operate, talk to others about problems  and often get great tips on how to improve methods in the care of specimens in my own institution.

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Storage for unopened and unprepared field jackets. Each field jacket is marked with specimen information, collection data, as well as the weight of the jacket. Some of the field jackets are over 1000lbs!
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The storage space where finished specimens live. These are all cataloged and documented. The “type” specimens are locked in a separate room. The Tyrrell has many large specimens stored on open shelving like this, but also a lot of smaller things in cabinets with drawers.

The Collections at the Tyrrell are filled with many specimens that still require preparation, and many that have been beautifully prepared in their enormous lab space.  The space is equipped with rolling tables and mobile dust collection units.  So much of what they work on in here is large blocks filled with dinosaur bones or marine reptiles that open, modular space is essential.  A 3 ton hoist is located at one end of the lab for moving the large jacket from pallets onto the worktables.  There is another, smaller lab space equipped with microscope workstations for more detailed, finer preparation.

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This window looks out into the exhibit space. The preparator’s call their lab the “fish bowl”. A common nick-name for public labs. Always on display, like fish in a bowl…
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Another view of the main preparation lab. A lot of big dinosaurs and marine reptiles get worked on in here. They need lots of space, and can have several work stations with large specimens going at a time.
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