You know that scene in Jurassic Park when the cup of water ripples ominously? I could watch that over and over, and I did several times a day as a kid – Jurassic Park was, and still is, my all time favourite film. I can never forget the sound of the rain bouncing off the self-driving cars, the pinging noise as the electric fencing snapped away from the posts, and the incredible squelching of the T.rex’s ginormous foot in the mud. You can imagine then, just how excited I was to be standing in the middle of a virtual reality street in Edinburgh with dinosaurs thudding past me, and a T.rex in pursuit! I was more excited than all the ‘actual’ kids in the room.
The exhibition costs £12 and can be found on the third floor of the National Museum of Scotland – but tyrannosaurs are on a rampage across the city and someone left the back door to the museum open…
The exhibition uses lots of virtual reality to demonstrate the scale, movements and speeds of the different tyrannosaurs. The first experience of this is in a wide virtual Edinburgh street that everyone walks through to enter the main exhibition. As you’re walking along, a pack of tyrannosaurs flee past you and the sense of impending doom is immense – what are they running away from? Of course it’s the T.rex, but the suspense of the legendary tyrannosaur’s arrival is really exciting!
There’s more virtual reality inside when you’re faced with a screen of CCTV monitors. Everything appears normal, until the unthinkable happens – dinosaurs have made it inside the museum! I won’t say what happens next, but try to experience this away from peak visitor times to make the most of it – it’s simultaneously humorous, exciting, kind of cute, and museum storytelling at its finest.
The main exhibition is dominated by some very impressive skeleton casts and interactive activities, including a jumping platform to help demonstrate the meteor strike theory of extinction. I loved the feathery tyrannosaurs dotted around and the surprise touches such as moving skeleton shadows and tooth-studded coprolite (dinosaur poop) – because these tyrannosaurs ate lots of teeth with their main meals it would seem!
I was a little sad not to see Jurassic Park references alongside the pop-culture posters – especially since the gift shop was full of Jurassic Park logo inspired t-shirts (that were Edinburgh themed). I’m sure there must have been a reason for this, and the culture references that were curated were really cool.
It was also a shame to see that all the ‘bone hunters’ and palaeontologists featured were men. The truth is I know nothing about famous paleontologists, but a quick Google search brings up Sue Hendrickson who discovered one of the most complete tyrannosaurus skeletons in science (named Sue, funnily enough). I really think any museum exhibition with a STEM focus absolutely has to feature female role models in some way – especially an exhibit as exciting as this one. There may well have been women (including Sue) mentioned in the finer text, but none were visible at the surface level of interpretation which is key. Every photograph was a man’s and there wasn’t a single (easily visible) female role model for kids like my fossil-collecting 11 year old self to associate with. I couldn’t read it all today because of how remarkably busy it was, so I can only hope some female contributors to the research around tyrannosaurs were mentioned.
The story couldn’t have been more different in the equally impressive (in my opinion) free Parasite exhibition on the same floor. Lots of female scientists and innovators were featured which was brilliant to see! I also loved looking at the different public health information poster designs.
The Tyrannosaurs exhibition really is superb and I highly recommend a visit! It’s in Edinburgh until 4th May 2020, and there’s a Jurassic Party museum late on 13th March.