Jurassic Puzzle

Pictures by: 
Ariffin Jamar
Report by: 
Benson Ang
Video by: 
Azim Azman

How do you set up a dinosaur exhibit? Very, very carefully. The Dinosaurs, Dawn to Extinction opened yesterday at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

The New Paper on Sunday had a chance to get up close and personal with the bones, which are millions of years old, as the curators installed the exhibition over the past few weeks.

They set up over 400 fossils and models. Among the biggest is a lessemsaurus. At 17.6m long, the late Triassic-age dinosaur is as long as four white rhinos, and the exhibit, which features the prehistoric herbivore battling a lizard, took 10 days to put up.

Says Dr Patricia Vickers-Rich, 69, a palaeontologist who curated the exhibition: "Putting the bones together was already challenging. Getting the specimens to look like they were fighting took even more time."

She had to observe modern-day reptiles - like the komodo dragon - to guess at how a prehistoric lizard moved and reacted.

"We make an educated guess through research and hard work."

In general, says Dr Vickers-Rich, it is easier if the skeletons already come in pre-assembled sections. "But if they come as individual bones, putting them together is much more time-consuming."

The exhibits were flown and shipped in. Eventually, 196 crates reached the museum. Each was meticulously labelled with what it contains - which dinosaur and part. Each crate was carefully opened and the contents put together.

Says Dr Vickers-Rich: "When assembling exhibits, I can't begin to say how careful you must be. If anything breaks or is lost, it is basically irreplaceable. It's not like we can get into our time machine and get another fossil."

The fragile exhibits are placed under glass or Perspex display cases. She says: "The cases prevent visitors from touching the exhibits. But they also showcase our team's hard work. It's like finishing a giant jigsaw puzzle. It feels awesome."

Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction will take visitors over 600 million years back in time, covering the Precambrian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous time periods.

The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on January 26, 2014.