Something big has come to Rochester Museum and Science Center.
Make that some things.
Dinosaur replicas, many of which are to scale and move and make ferocious growling sounds — have invaded the East Avenue institution for “Expedition: Dinosaurs.”
Produced by Stage 9 exhibits, the show opened Nov. 5 in RMSC’s third-floor Riedman Gallery and adjacent spaces and will remain there through next spring.
“You can only glean so much from a picture in a textbook,” said Calvin Uzelmeier, RMSC’s director of featured content. The exhibit’s life-size animatronics paired with its hands-on experiences “helps make paleontology and Earth’s history come to life.”
There are 11 dinosaur replicas in all representing the Mesozoic era (between 65 million and 230 million years ago). Nine are on the third floor: two Velociraptors, two Pachycephalosaurus, an Albertosaurus, a Kentrosaurus, a Stegosaurus, a Carnotaurus and a Triceratops. Also on the third floor is a Tyrannosaurus rex head that people can get inside (more on that later). In the lobby is a baby Amargasaurus, and outside on the museum grounds is a Dilophosaurus.
The pieces being featured inside are so large — the Albertosaurus measures 30 feet from head to tail — they could not fit through the museum doors, so they were hoisted by a crane and brought in through a massive window.
The exhibit also has a human component. A display about the early days of paleontology in America explores the so-called Bone Wars between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, “two men who were really battling it out, who could find the most fossils” during the second half of the 19th century, Uzelmeier said.
“Prior to them, the United States was kind of looked at as a wasteland” from a paleontology perspective, he said. “Not a lot of dinosaurs were found here. But they started doing their work, and there was this gold rush of paleontology. They really battled back and forth trying to one-up each other to the point that they drove each other into financial ruin. They found a tremendous amount of stuff, but in their speed used some really questionable tactics,” like using dynamite to blow up excavation sites. “So, they got a lot, but they also likely destroyed an awful lot in the process. We now know to be much more careful.”
A few of the animatronic dinosaur models in “Expedition: Dinosaurs” are motion-sensitive, meaning all you have to do is get in proximity for them to start moving their arms, heads and mouths (so many pointy teeth!), blinking their eyes and roaring loudly.
Others are activated by panels of buttons that visitors control. The panels, and other hands-on stations, including one that quizzes people on their prehistoric knowledge (spoiler alert: Dinosaurs and people did not roam the Earth at the same time), are at heights that are accessible for people in wheelchairs.
The T-rex head, which is frighteningly to scale, has a cutout in the back, so people can take pictures that make it appear they are in the snarling beast’s mouth.
They also can play a T-rex version of the classic Hasbro game Operation. Instead of using tweezers to remove a “funny bone” from a human, visitors are challenged to remove the theropod’s femur and other parts using metal tongs. If the tongs touch the side of an opening, a buzzer sounds and a red light goes off.
In addition, there are hands-on excavation pits filled with simulated dinosaur bones, as well as a claw-machine game. Only instead of trying to retrieve a stuffed toy or other prize using a claw crane, the goal is to pick and move casts of dinosaur eggs from one container to another.
Admission to “Expedition: Dinosaurs” is included with museum admission: For non-members, that’s $20 for adults; $19 for people 62 and older and college students; $18 for people 3 to 18; free for children younger than 3.
All visitors are required to wear face coverings, regardless of COVID vaccination status.
For more, go to rmsc.org.