Friday 20 August 2021

Visiting the Sauriermuseum Aathal - Part 2: Exhibits

And so we are back again with the Sauriermuseum Aathal (Click here for part 1). This time we will look at a few special exhibits. First up a little room next to the Howe Quarry dinosaurs entirely dedicated to comics and satires about or using dinosaurs from old to recent. 

Among them I found this little drawing made by none other than Natee Puttapipat. Unfortunately, it was credited as “Author: Unknown (Internet)”.

“I wonder if that also includes the Cretaceous age”. Yes, this made me laugh, sue me.

In the center of the room also stood little pillars with TV-screens, which you can barely see on the left in the bottom picture. These played short clips from various dinosaur-movies made throughout the decades, from Jurassic Park, The Land Before Time all the way to Gertie the Dinosaur and even one of the old Sindbad stop-motion movies. I guess the wingless dragon animated by Ray Harryhausen in that one counts as a dinosaur.

Speaking of movies, one level below was also a little hallway with movie posters and stills from various dinosaur movies, of course with a big focus on all the fur-bikinis. Gigantis the Fire Monster is by the way the American name of Godzilla raids again, the direct sequel of the original Godzilla from 1954. In the West Godzilla-movies were often rebranded, I think because the first movie did not do too well with American audiences. In German media however this took on some ridiculous levels where for a time every movie was renamed to somehow shoehorn Frankenstein into the title. Godzilla vs. Hedorah was for example named “Frankenstein’s battle against the Devilmonster”. In the room there was also a small projector with a few benches. Last time I was here it played Chased by Dinosaurs with Nigel Marven, this time it was a little reportage about the museum’s work at the Howe Quarry.

From the little movie-hallway one entered the fossil plant exhibit, which we looked at in the last part, though mostly focussing on the stegosaurs also exhibited alongside the plants. Here are some exquisitely preserved plants, some opalized wood and a reconstruction of Cooksonia, one of the oldest land-plants, for you.

An exhibit which has existed in the museum since 2005 is the one about feathered dinosaurs. That it has aged a bit you can see with this model of Velociraptor, which looks nice, though very Greg-Paulian in design, as the feathering sticks very close to the body-contour and goes not all the way to the face, feet or hands. Interestingly, as far as I am aware, the discovery of quill-knobs being present on the arms of Velociraptor was only made in 2007, so while today it is outdated, this reconstruction would have been regarded as quite speculative when it was first exhibited.

Alongside it were also Microraptor and Caudipteryx, looking a lot more accurate. The second model does look familiar. There was also a cute reconstruction of Sinosauropteryx in its dying pose. Alongside the non-avian dinosaurs was also a full skeletal reconstruction of Gastornis, also happening to be the largest dinosaur in the room. I find this a very neat inclusion, as it serves to perfectly blur the imaginary barrier that supposedly separates the "monstrous dinosaurs" from the "cute birdies" and shows how dinosaurian even crown-group birds are in their anatomy. Though unfortunately here the exhibit is showing its age again by calling the animal Diatryma and using Burian's classic depiction of the animal, which shows the bird with ratite-like feathers. Gastornis was an anseriform and therefore would have more likely had feathers similar to waterfowl.

The newest exhibit was one about meteorites (though it’s technically an update of an older one about the same topic). Brand new was this panoramic display which showed a short movie about the K-Pg-impact. The animation was of course not Pixar-quality or anything but it got the job done of telling the basic story: Dinosaurs have a happy life, asteroid ruins the day, the sky is covered in ash and darkness, dinosaurs die, Earth recovers, mammals take over. The meteorite you see in the middle of the room was of course real. There was even one the visitors were allowed to touch and try to lift… which proved difficult due to its extreme density. Also, just to get this out of my system: It is called a meteoroid when it is still in space, a meteor when it is in the process of falling through the atmosphere and a meteorite when it crashes and survives impact.

In a room next to the panorama were meteorites from all around the world (and out of this world, like ones from Mars), though the lighting did not serve my camera any favours. In the middle of the room was also an interactive display where you could select and look at various impact-sites around the world.

I also really liked this simplified recreation of the K-Pg-boundary. It is something I do not really see often in museum exhibits.

Speaking of things you also do not really see often, next to the meteorites was an exhibit dedicated to dinosaur eggs (including a replica of that famous Psittacosaurus-nest), but also various ichnofossils and how they are made, including a close look at the form of dinosaur-feet and how they correlate with their footprints. Something for all of you sauropod foot-fetishists out there. There was also a little sand-pit where kids could use stamps to make their own dinosaur-tracks.

Also among the newest exhibits was one about trilobites and other Paleozoic life. Like the meteorite one, it was accompanied by a large screen, which played a cute reel of various extinct invertebrates going about their day, such as the Hallucigenia you see at the bottom.

Alongside the variety of trilobites from probably all (Paleozoic) periods and continents were also shown various models of Cambrian ocean life, exhibited in these little bubbles. And look there, hyoliths!

And to end this part, a few more trilobites and a final reminder that eurypterids were horrifying. This was of course not all there is to see at the Sauriermuseum Aathal. In the next part we will take a look at Swiss dinosaurs, dinosaur-merchandise from around the world and pterosaurs!

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