A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, ‘Dinosaurs in Your Backyard: A Portal to Past Worlds,’ premiered on Feb. 18, 2017.
By Ronni Newton
The dinosaur exhibit that opened to the public Saturday at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford isn’t filled with reconstructed dinosaur skeletons to be seen and not touched.
The Museum, which caters to preschool and elementary school aged children, has created an interactive exhibit “Dinosaurs in your Backyard: A Portal to Past Worlds”– which incorporates many hands-on activities and focuses on dinosaurs that were native to the region millions of years ago.
The exhibit has plenty to interest adults as well, many of whom may be surprised to know that plenty of dinosaurs had feathers and quills. Examples of dinosaurs that look very different from the “Jurassic Park” creatures that usually come to mind are reproduced through enormous and vibrant graphic prints created by James Kuether that hang on the walls of the exhibit hall.
The dinosaurs in the exhibit are also local.
“The scenes are reflective, to the best of our knowledge, of what Connecticut, even West Hartford, might have been like millions of years ago,” said Paul Orselli, who designed the exhibit for The Children’s Museum.
Children’s Museum educator Dan O’Dea said that the dinosaurs depicted in the graphics aren’t all the same age and weren’t all in the area at the same time. They could have roamed the area anywhere from 200 to 220 million years ago, which seems like a huge amount of time in human terms, he said.
Orselli said that based on the geologic conditions in this area, very few fossilized dinosaur bones have been found in the region. “Lots of tracks but not lots of skeletons,” he said. “In the Connecticut Valley the geology lent itself to capturing fossil footprints.”
In order to come up with visions of what the dinosaurs that roamed this area looked like, the tracks found locally have been compared to tracks found elsewhere to “fill in the blanks,” Orselli said.
The exhibit is educational and interactive, with plenty of “touchable” and hands-on activities for even the youngest children, while at the same time it’s educational for older children and parents or caregivers. It includes bones, other fossils, life-size replicas, and dinosaur-related games and other activities.
Michael Werle, Executive Director of The Children’s Museum, said that through the exhibit, “We also hope to provide a launching pad for children, families and schools to learn more about dinosaurs by visiting other Connecticut dinosaur exhibits.”
Dinosaurs in Your Backyard: A Portal to Past Worlds had a preview reception for Museum members and special guests on Friday night and opened to the public on Saturday. The exhibit is phase one of an what is planned as an evolving dinosaur exhibit, said Children’s Museum Marketing Coordinator Renee Hartshorn. It was funded in part by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Contributions, including some of the items on display, were contributed by Dinosaur State Park, The Discovery Museums of Acton, MA, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, The Center for Integrative Geosciences and the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, Dept. of Environmental Earth Science, and Eastern Connecticut State University.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!