Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall Closes for 5-Year Overhaul (photos)

Benny (age 7) from Richmond Va. is among the last group of fossil fans to visit Dinosaur Hall before it closes for remodeling.
Jeff Malet
Benny (age 7) from Richmond Va. is among the last group of fossil fans to visit Dinosaur Hall before it closes for remodeling.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which ranks as the world's second most visited after the Louvre in Paris, has closed its popular Dinosaur Hall for an extensive remodeling that will take five years to complete. The hall was packed on Sunday, April 27, as fossil fans flocked to get one last look before the doors closed at 7:30 p.m.

Every one of the specimens will have to be taken apart, cleaned and put together again. The museum's new T.-Rex, one of the largest and most complete skeletons ever discovered, will be the centerpiece of the new hall, set to open in 2019. In the mean time, temporary exhibits will be open just upstairs on the second floor.

We spoke to Brian Huber, curator of Planktic Foraminifera and department chairman, who was on hand at the closing of Dinosaur Hall. There are currently more than 2,000 specimens, some of which have been on display since the early 1900s, according to Huber. "Just getting them off their mounts will take a lot of time," he said. The original architecture will be restored. Walls and floors will be coming out and skylights will be installed, opening up the space and allowing natural light to come in. "It will be a completely different layout," Huber said. The new floor plan will allow objects to be presented in a much more chronological and intuitive manner. Huber said that reopening will be in 2019, the "soonest we can do it [and] we will stick to schedule." "Everything will be 3-D scanned. The mounts will be different ... much better for the specimens ... We will have a temporary gallery upstairs, 5,000 feet of space versus the 31,000 feet" currently. The second floor will include the popular fossil lab which will reopen this summer.

Just before closing time on Sunday, we chatted with Mina Eggerton who has been a docent at the Dinosaur Hall since 1974, when the current exhibit was then called the "New Hall." Eggerton has witnessed many changes and still remembers "being brought here as a child by my grandmother when the dinosaurs were under glass." She is "quite sad that it's going to be closed for five years" but wistfully adds "I suppose it can't be helped".

If you would like to get one last peek at Dinosaur Hall plus some of the activities from this last weekend, click on the photo icons below.

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Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:38:44 -0400

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