For T.rex Tuesday this week, I wanted to take a moment to discuss casts, and the effect that they have on enhancing smaller musuems. As an example, I can also then talk about a little-remarked museum in Orlando, Florida.
The Orlando Science Center is geared toward a younger crowd, but includes not one but two different simulated fossil "digs" geared toward different age groups. Like many musuems, the OSC's "Dino Digs" exhibit is cast-heavy, and a casting of Black Hills Institute's BHI 3033 "Stan" is featured prominently in the middle of the group. They also have casts of Albertosaurus, Edmontosaurus, and both Triceratops porosis and Triceratops horidus, among others.
From our perspective, the T.rex Road Trip project would be a lot harder without all of these various casts to visit and feature. Let's face it: there definitely aren't enough Tyrannosaurus skeletons to meet the demand. I've heard a lot of grousing about the value of castings, or the lack thereof. And while it's true that you really can't do much meaningful study on a fossil's casting, at the end of the day, presentation is for one purpose and one purpose only: to drive ticket purchases.
To that end, castings are nothing new. Andrew Carnegie made a number of casts of his much-loved 1899 specimen of Diplodocus carnegii for different musuems all over the world. The recent displacement of one of them, named "Dippy", by a Blue Whale skeleton (impressive in its own right) in the British Museum of Natural History, was met by howls of disapproval. (He's currently on tour throughout the UK.)
I selected this photo over several that were technically better because it tells a specific story. Florida, having been underwater during much of the late cretaceous, really has no dionosaur record at all, and probably no connection to Tyrannosaurus rex. But people want to see him, and in turn are then exposed to skeletons of underwater dinosaur contemporaries like Tylosaurus (background) and the plesiosaur that is out of view to our right. I think this pretty much sums up my thoughts on the value of castings in the museum world. Any thoughts?