Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three Dire Deinonychus

Yesterday I met up with a friend in the Natural History Museum. Again. Well, it's a great venue to catch up over a coffee, followed by a shuffle with the masses around the dinosaur gallery, which has recently had a bit of a dusting-down. While the cleaners were in the opportunity was also taken to spruce up some of the displays, replacing ageing CRT monitors with shiny new LCD setups, and old hand-drawn animations depicting Mesozoic environments with new CGI ones. Unfortunately, they still haven't mothballed their bloody bald dromaeosaurs.

The above photo, taken by a five-year-old me back in 1993, depicts the museum's three animatronic Deinonychus in their original tableau - dining on a Tenontosaurus carcass (as they are wont to do). This scene has now been replaced by a very cool Tyrannosaurus robot and the Tenontosaurus is, if not destroyed, lying around in a storeroom somewhere. The Deinonychus trio, however, live on in the museum's dinosaur gallery, positioned presumably where they would fit.

You might argue that keeping these 1990s relics on display is no bad thing - it's a harmless diversion, something to entertain the kids. The trouble is that a lot of people will take what they see in a museum - especially a highly reputable, world-renowned insitution such as the NHM - to be up-to-date and accurate without a second thought. My friend (a guy not normally interested in natural history, never mind dinosaurs) told me as much when I (not at all tediously) pointed out some of the flaws in a lot of their skeletal mounts and outdated signage - he'd have happily taken it all in as read and, consequently, would have been misinformed.

Now, I can understand why the museum might not want to repose/modify their skeletal mounts. Some of them - like the weirdo three-toed, tail-dragging Triceratops (shown here in 1907) - are veritable historical monuments. Besides which, reposing mounted skeletons, especially ones suspended above the ground, must be an absolute pain in the arse. However, there's really no excuse for having these shockingly outdated, scaly, bunny-handed Deinonychus on display any more. It's time to get rid of the old lizardy things (sell them off, perhaps?) and drag the dinosaur gallery into the 21st century.


  1. Oh, dear, no... And I had so hoped they'd have dealt with those during the refurbishment. (And ooh, they're open again?)

    I'm at pains to advocate leniency in these matters, especially to irate fellow dino-nerds; but I can only defend you so far, you know, Natural History Museum...

  2. i find it sad to see any of this stuff get thrown away, especially since I love collecting out of date children's books, but I can understand that they don't need to be in the museum.
    hell, I'll buy 'em

  3. @tnthielen: Oh, no, not thrown away altogether, certainly. That would be a dreadful waste. But I think at the very least, they really ought to make clear that reconstructions such as this are no longer correct.

    I also have many children's books (and others) that are up to a century old. ;)

  4. I feel exactly the same way about the outdated models and casts...Iguanodon always makes me want to cry.

  5. Stuttgart sold(?) off their horrible old Plateosaurus models and mounts (kept one of each, though), and now they disgrace other places - YUCK! You'll see one of them soon at dinosaurpalaeo.

  6. I don't understand why they would keep the inaccurate raptors but not the accurate Tenontosaurus? Also Triceratops did drag it's tail being one of the only dinosaurs to do so.


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