Royal Tyrrell Museum Of Palaeontology
The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
Most visitors flock to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology for one gigantic reason- dinosaurs! The museum was named in honor of Joseph Burr Tyler, the geologist who discovered the skull cap of what later became known as the “Albertosaurus sarcophagus.” The scientific name means “the flesh-eating lizard from Alberta.”
Joseph Burr Tyrrell's discovery paved the way for Alberta's “Great Dinosaur Rush,” the period from 1910 to 1917 wherein crowds of dinosaur fossil hunters came driven by a desire to find the finest specimens for their museums that are situated in the US and Canada.
The dinosaur exhibits at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology are in the midst of the Canadian Badlands, about 6 kilometers from downtown Drumheller, Alberta. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is situated in a site not far from where the Albertosaurus fossil was found. Today, Drumheller is touted as the Dinosaur Capital of the World.
Coal. This ancient substance would pretty much summarize the connection between Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Drumheller has an economy based on the rich coal deposit of the region. It is through his work as a geologist in the coal mines that Joseph Burr Tyrrell found the Albertosaurus fossil in 1884. The museum is of course named to give honor to the coal mine geologist and discoverer of the Albertosaurus. The bulk of the fossils that are exhibited at the Royal Tyrrell Museum were found embedded in the strata of earth along with the coal.
It is said that necessity is the mother of innovations. It seems to hold true in the case of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The coal industry, which before was Drumheller's lifeblood, started to decline in the late 1940s. Gradually the area’s economy started to recover, but during the mid-1970s, community leaders wanted to prop up trade even more and suggested that a facility be built to encourage more business in.
The town’s leadership then expressed the idea to the Provincial Government of Alberta. The Provincial Government of Alberta in turn, responded positively to the community leaders' suggestion so that by 1979, they were assured that Drumheller would have a research center devoted to paleontology- the Provincial Museum Research Institute (PRMI).
The announcement for a scientific research facility was made official on July 1, 1980. Before long however, changes were made to include galleries and display areas for the planned research center. The project was evolving.
Two years later, Dr. David Baird, formerly the Director of the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, was placed at the helm of the project. It was to include exhibitions and educational programs. After the exhibition concepts were developed through Dr. Baird's guidance, the museum construction accelerated in a dizzying pace so that it was ready in three years time- including the mounting of the massive exhibits.
On September 25, 1985; the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology opened its doors to the public. The Honourable Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta led the ceremony. The event was well-supported with thousands in attendance.
The big crowd that gathered during its opening seemed to have been a good omen as the number of visitors greatly exceeded projections on its first year. From the 150,000 projected annual visitors, the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology welcomed 500,000 visitors on that year. As a token by the Alberta Provincial Government to the people of the region, the museum had free admissions during its first six years of existence.
Collections and Exhibits
The current collection of the Royal Tyrrell Museum stands at 125,000 and being an active center for scientific research on paleontology as well, it is growing at the rate of about 2,000 new items every year. Considered to be one of the most extensive in the world, the collections are made up of vertebrate and invertebrate animal fossils, plant fossils, and geologic specimen.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum has specimens from all over the world although the majority of the specimens are from the Phanerozoic Eon of Alberta. The major geological divisions are all represented here.
The current exhibit includes:
(1) The Terrestrial Paleozoic– It focuses on the era when plants and animals moved from the sea and towards the land. Highlights of this section include the Dimetrodon, the most mammal-like of all reptiles. Other highlights are prehistoric insects and the amphibians that defined the Permian period.
(2) Cretaceous Alberta– It gives a glimpse of how Alberta was like 69 million years ago.
(3) Science Hall– The basic concepts about paleontology are taught here using hands-on activities.
(4) Preparation Lab– It gives the visitors a chance to see lab technicians working on the fossils that they have brought back from the field.
(5) Lords of the Land – The most significant specimens of the museum can be found here — a Tyrannosaurus Rex nicknamed “Black Beauty” and its relative, the Albertosaurus sarcophagus.
(6) Burgess Shale – This exhibit takes the visitor to a prehistoric water-world of soft-bodied species.
(7) Devonian Reef– The Devonian is also called the Age of Fishes. Here, the visitors experience the underwater world of Alberta millions of years ago.
(8) Cretaceous Garden– The visitor can walk through a garden featuring living prehistoric plants.
(9) Dinosaur Hall– This is one of the most sought-after exhibits where dinosaur reconstructions are featured.
(10) Age of Mammals– It highlights how mammals which were originally small and stealthy-looking, took over the world from the reptiles.
(11) Ice Age– Here, visitors learn about the animals and the landscape that existed about two million years ago when much of the Northern Hemisphere was covered in ice.
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