Tyrannosaurus Rex Sue is Movin’ on Up!

Call me biased, but I think Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History is one of the best of its kind. I live and grew up just twenty-five minutes south of the city’s Museum Campus which, in addition to Field, includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Between recreational family visits and school field trips these institutions would be a staple of my youth with the Field Museum my favorite. As a child, I was guaranteed to see dinosaurs and maybe even bring one home courtesy of their twenty-five cent Mold-a-Rama machines. By the time Sue entered the scene, I was twenty-nine years old and married with kids of my own. I remember the entire city abuzz with news of the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever discovered moving in. “Her” arrival was accompanied by a huge media blitz and I recall driving to work one morning and hearing a local DJ parody the old hit, “Runaround Sue,” about it.

Brontosaurus mold

T-rex Mold

Though more than a quarter, Mold-a-Ramas are far from extinct from the Field Museum

Chicagoans weren’t the only ones excited. While vacationing in Hawaii that year, I was surprised to see a Honolulu McDonald’s offering a contest to “win a trip to Chicago” and see her (not surprising as the famous food chain had assisted the museum in obtaining her). Thankfully, despite the insurmountable hype, I wasn’t to be disappointed. I vividly recall the excitement I had plowing through crowds of people to see her for the first time. With my young son in tow, I was transported back to his age; awestruck at the Field Museum once again.

Even without the world’s most famous theropod, their dinosaur and fossil collection is enviable. At this date, if you stand at the foot of Sue, you can see a replica pteranodon hovering overhead. To its right, and on the upper floor, is their impressive “Evolving Planet” exhibit. And now, nearly twenty years after her arrival, Sue will make “her” way upstairs, surrounded by her Cretaceous peers.

Dinosaur enthusiasts may want to make fast plans to see Sue sooner rather than later as the Museum plans to dismantle her this coming February before reassembling her upstairs with the other dinosaurs.  If all goes well, “she’ll” return on exhibit in the spring of 2019, though not quite the same as we see her now. The field of Paleontology is a dynamic one and Sue will be posed differently in accordance. She’ll also be reunited with bones that are already up there. Two decades ago, nobody was sure the correct way to assemble her gastralia; belly ribs from the pelvic to sternum that provide support for the animal’s abdominal muscles. These will now be featured with the main skeleton as part of her makeover.

As for Sue’s current location on the main floor, it won’t stay vacant for long. The most exciting news to come from the Field Museum since Sue’s arrival is the addition of a replica Titanosaur (largest of the sauropods), Patagotitan mayorum from Argentina. To get an idea of this animal’s size, check out this fantastic comparison chart published in USA Today

For a short time after this giant is unveiled, the museum will feature some of the animal’s actual bones too. Personally, I’m excited about this because I hoped to see some during a prehistoric pit stop I did last March at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Although the museum was borrowing the bones from Argentina for the purpose of study, they were not on exhibit for a geeky, dino fan like me.

At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 2017

Of course, not everyone’s cheering over the changes. When the news first hit I heard many Chicagoans gripe about it, including one of the museum’s own docents whom I thought was going to cry when I brought it up the week of the announcement. Obviously I love Sue (and please go watch Dinosaur 13 to fully appreciate both her and the amazing men and women who unnecessarily suffered to bring her to us) and feel she’ll have more impact in a smaller space rather than having her grandeur drown a bit in the museum’s immense Stanley Field Hall. In fact, I can’t think of any other dinosaur more fitting for that space than a Titanosaur.

 

I’ll be discussing Sue in more detail soon (got a few more model reviews to get through, first) closer to the move. In the meantime, I suggest any Midwest fossil enthusiasts make their way to the Windy City beforehand.  Stop by and say “hello” to the world’s most famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, before she rises like the star “she” is.

~Dave Fuentes

Have any dinosaur news, collection photos, product reviews, or any Prehistoric Pit Stop you’d like to share? Shoot them to David Fuentes at davesdinosaurs@gmail.com!

 

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2 thoughts on “Tyrannosaurus Rex Sue is Movin’ on Up!

  1. Thanks for the post and especially the absolutely terrific photos. Fellow lifelong Chicagoan here, and I feel the same way as you do about Sue. Although as a Chicagoan I’m glad that she’s here, I’m saddened by the problematic history that brought her to us. Still I’m glad that she ended up in a public museum where so many people can see her and at the same time she can be continuously studied by scientists of a variety of disciplines. I look forward to seeing her dominate the second floor. And I can’t wait for Patagotitan mayorum!!

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    • Thanks for the feedback and it sounds like you and I are of likemind. I was able to visit Thw Black Hills Institute this past August and I do feel Sue is better suited, viewing wise, in Chicago. However, what those people went through is unconscionable. They do have “Stan” the T-Rex now, and”he’s” pretty cool too. Again, thanks for the great comments!

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