I think I make a pretty convincing Zuul, you can hardly tell the difference!
After a couple of months of blogging hiatus as I’ve been getting settled into my new job at the Royal BC Museum, it’s time to share a couple of thoughts and photos of the Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur exhibit. I had a chance to visit the exhibit in person back in January when I was invited to give the Madeleine Fritz Lecture along with Tom Holtz. We faced off in a dramatic fight to the death in our Dinosaur Fight Club talk!
I was also in town for the ROM’s Dino Family Funday, reading some of my favourite dinosaur picture books and enjoying all of the super cool Zuul-themed activities like this collaborative art project featuring Danielle Dufault’s beautiful mural!
The highlight of my visit, of course, was getting to see the exhibit, a project that occupied a huge chunk of 2018 for me. Here’s the video that opens the exhibit as guests enter, a really nice piece showcasing the work that goes on at SADP each summer and some of our time spent at the Zuul quarry in Montana.
I can’t possibly capture the entire exhibit in this blog post, but I’ll share a few highlights for each section. Entering the exhibit we take a visit to the Zuul quarry, learning about how Zuul was discovered and what the badlands near Havre are like.
We take a trip through the ankylosaur family tree, coming face to face with Zuul‘s skull, and then get a chance to learn about Zuul‘s weaponry and armour. Zuul‘s tail club anchors a section on animal weapons, and I’m really happy with how our ‘weapons wall’ turned out. It’s also pretty cool to see figures that I made to accompany research papers years ago, like the tail club evolution timeline you can see to the right in this photo, make an appearance.
David and I (and Zuul) make appearances in graphic novel form throughout the exhibit. Science is done by human beings, and we felt it was important to show the researchers behind the facts and stories in the exhibit. It’s a little weird to come face to face with myself like this, but I hope it gives people an opportunity to better understand the work that goes on in museums, and maybe even to feel like they’ve had a bit of a personal connection with scientific research. This is my favourite panel, a highly accurate representation of how my research tends to go. Results!
And of course the showstopper is Zuul‘s big ol’ bod, now fully prepared on both sides (I moved out west while the dorsal side was still obscured by matrix, and preparation only finished in January 2019, so this was my first time seeing this!. It’s absolutely stunning. Huge thanks to the prep team at Research Casting International for the incredible work getting Zuul freed from the rock. I’m looking forward to writing up a description of Zuul‘s postcrania with David Evans!
There’s so much more to love about this exhibit – the totally rad arcade games and interactives by Sinking Ship Entertainment, the incorporation of human armour and weapons with animal armour and weapons into our displays, the abundant touchable bronze casts to bring a tactile component to the exhibit, the dramatic showdown between the mounted Gorgosaurus and Zuul skeletons. I highly recommend checking out the #DinoZuul hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for more photos of the exhibit! I’m blown away by how well everything came together, and it can only happen when a team of talented people all put a lot of effort into making something special. I’m incredibly grateful to the entire ROM team.
And in particular, a special thanks is owed to David Evans for inviting me to be part of this project. We’re coming up on two years since the paper naming Zuul was published and it’s been an amazing ride – and there’s still more to be revealed as research continues.