Dinosaur Hall - Behind the Scenes | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Thomas the T. rex will captivate visitors imagination this summer. Hailing from Montana, this 70% complete specimen is one of the ten most complete T. rex specimens on Earth. Illustration by Stephanie Abramowicz.

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The Dinosaurs Have Arrived!

Watch some dinosaur videos at our  YouTube channel!

Recognition Opportunities in
the New Dinosaur Hall!

Your family’s name can be a part of one of the world’s finest dinosaur halls. Our new exhibit boasts recently excavated specimens, more fossils than any dinosaur hall in the world, and an eye-opening representation of the real, behind-the-scenes processes of paleontology.   
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Behind the Scenes

NHM's Dinosaur Institute 

Many of the hall’s specimens were discovered by our Dinosaur Institute (DI) in the last several years. Notable accomplishments include sauropod discoveries (including “Gnatalie,” named for the biting gnats that pestered her excavators) and dinosaur trackways in Utah; an extraordinary dinosaur nesting site, with thousands of fossil eggs, in Patagonia, Argentina; and the identification and naming of North America’s tiniest dinosaur, the Fruitadens haagarorum.  

But our biggest success story is Thomas the T. rex, one of the most complete T. rex specimens in the world, and for NHM visitors, the most familiar. Excavated by DI paleontologists in Montana from 2003 to 2005, the Thomas specimen was brought to the Museum and prepared in a working paleontology laboratory in full view of the public.

Bringing Ancient Animals to Life

Many of the illustrations you'll see in the Dinosaur Hall were done by our very own Stephanie Abramowicz. In addition to the Q&A in the Naturalist, we have more illustrations and a video to show you, with more detail about her incredible contributions.

Resurrecting Dinosaurs: From the Ground to the Museum Floor 

Time magazine was recently here to go behind the scenes with our Dinosaur Institute staff as they created the new Dinosaur Hall. 

The Building Team

The new Dinosaur Hall is a large-scale permanent exhibition that will be presented in two light-filled galleries — twice the size of the Museum’s former dinosaur galleries — that span both the Museum’s original 1913 Building and the later addition, nicknamed the 1920s Building. The building team had to make both structures functional and stunning by doing four things: a seismic retrofit and systems upgrade, bringing in natural light, connecting the two buildings, and creating vertical circulation through a new mezzanine level.

In 2008, the team embarked on an investigative process for the most effective way to fortify the buildings, given the dearth of original plans of the historic structures. They then worked closely with the exhibition designers to create a space that allows visitors to be eye-to-eye with dinosaur specimens when on the mezzanine level.

Building Team:
Project Management: Cordell Corporation, Don Webb
Project Architect: CO Architects, Jorge de la Cal
General Contractor: Matt Construction
Structural Engineers: John A. Martin & Associates
Mechanical & Electrical Engineers: IBE Consulting Engineers 

The Exhibition Team

The Museum's spectacular dinosaur mounts take center stage in the galleries, complimented by hundreds of other fossils, graphics, videos, and interactive displays. Scientists and curators at the Museum worked with a multi-faceted creative design team to develop every aspect of the exhibition. The driving goal was to present the fossil collection, much of it recently unearthed by the Museum's Dinosaur Institute, in an unobstructed and fresh light. Using the most current paleontological science, coupled with the Museum's world-class fossil collection, the exhibition invites visitors to participate in interpreting and reconstructing the past.

Brooklyn-based Evidence Design introduced architectural revisions to the 1920s gallery, adding large windows to illuminate the once darkened space as well as a mezzanine that links to the historic 1913 gallery and provides dramatic views of the specimens. Working closely with Museum curators and mount makers, special care was given to ensure scientific accuracy while presenting the specimens in provocative poses that support the investigaive learning process. The designers then developed a series of articulated platforms evocative of quasi-landscapes that futher animate the dinosaur mounts, minimize the use of glass barriers and allow guests to get close to the fossils. 

Kim Baer of kbda, inc. designed the hall’s graphics. She took inspiration from the dramatic shapes and sizes of the dinosaurs, as well as the Museum’s diverse audience, and the way visitors tend to slow down and speed up to absorb different levels of information. “People bounce around galleries like pinballs,” says Baer. “They don’t hug the walls. They aren’t reading in a linear fashion. We’ve bread-crumbed the information throughout the exhibition in different ways so that people who dip in and out will still say, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting.'"

Lexington is an award winning, full-service, creative design and custom fabrication company known for its expertise in producing a wide variety of technically complex projects. The company, in existence for over 25 years, has extensive experience performing world class projects in its five primary business categories for museums, theme park attractions, casinos and architectural features, retail and high definition broadcast television. Lexington’s reputation is enhanced by its practice of nurturing artisans in every fabrication category that excel in bringing unique visions to reality.

Focus Lighting worked to bring clarity and definition to the specimens in the daylit galleries. In order to determine the appropriate lighting fixtures and angles, Focus first created multiple size tests at the exhibit fabrication shop and at the Museum during construction. The lighting designers also examined the LED and metal halide fixtures for distribution and glare, and then developed flocked snoots to reduce glare.

United Field, in collaboration with the exhibit team, developed the interactive and linear media for the new hall. The interactive programs, multiplayer games, and animations and films in the hall reveal mysteries about the lives of dinosaurs and the study of paleontology. These programs clearly communicate complex information in ways that are accessible to diverse audiences. Visitors learn in ways that are engaging, functional, and fun.

Two of North America’s finest fossil mounters worked on the exhibition. Phil Fraley Productions — the company that headed the articulation of Sue, the iconic T. rex of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History — undertook the T. rex specimens, the giant marine reptiles, and the Triceratops. The Ontario, Canada-based Research Casting International remounted the exhibition’s largest specimen, the 68-foot Mamenchisaurus and six additional medium-sized mounts. 


T. rex Growth Series Timelapse