Tell us about the California Dinosaur Garden. What will children experience when they visit?
The exhibition will be in the dawn redwood courtyard where our current outdoor play activities are located. It will create a “living diorama” interpreting the Cretaceous period in California with life-size sculptures of prehistoric animals nestled among prehistoric ferns and cycads.
Children will be able to climb an Aletopelta coobmsi, an armored dinosaur, and walk beneath our California state dinosaur, Augustynolophus morrisi, a 32-foot-long herbivore. Discovering marine fossils in our Fossil Dig will convey that most of California was once underwater. The focus on California will help children understand change over time by comparing their familiar environment to what it was like millions of years ago.
On warm days, tortoises will roam beneath the redwood to showcase their connection to prehistoric turtles. Hands-on exhibits, touchable fossils, and illustrations will interpret the science in an age-appropriate manner for children.
How was the exhibit developed?
The exhibit concept was developed for a grant proposal prior to the new facility being built. Advance planning ensured the courtyard was designed for the exhibit’s special needs. We were awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Now the interpretive exhibits are being developed in earnest by JMZ staff, and prototypes will be tested this summer.
What makes the California Dinosaur Garden special?
In the exhibition, there will be a diversity of sculptures such as an Ichthyornis, a toothed plunge-diving seabird, a Pteranodon sternbergi, a flying reptile with a 16 foot wingspan, and Hypsilophodontids, deer-sized dinosaurs that were herd animals. These specimens were chosen because they were common animals in California during the Cretaceous period and represent a variety of species that may challenge visitors’ preconceived notions of dinosaur-age animals. We intend to represent these animals in non-aggressive poses to counter the menacing stereotypes that exist of dinosaurs in popular culture and to avoid frightening young children.
The JMZ is committed to presenting accurate scientific content. Throughout development, we consulted our scientific advisors, including Kevin C. Boyce, a paleobotanist and Stanford professor, Richard Hilton, a paleontologist and geologist who wrote the book, Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California, and Ken Kirkland, its scientific illustrator.
We have also engaged families with diverse backgrounds in early evaluation to understand their interests and knowledge about the topic. This ensures our exhibition will address the topic appropriately and be fun and engaging.
Lastly, the exhibits will be fully inclusive and developed with input from our Accessibility Advisors Team.