What We Do
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs died and their skeletons were covered with sand and mud that eventually hardened into rock. Pressure and some remineralization turned bones into fossils. Over time, the rock has eroded, allowing the fossils to be discovered.
You'll see actual dinosaur fossils in Dinosphere, but before the dinosaurs can be placed on display, each of the fossils has to be carefully (very carefully!) removed from the ground and prepared by a team of skilled technicians.
Here is what we do to prepare the fossils:
Remove the fossils from the ground
Dinosaur fossils have been found by all sorts of people: professional paleontologists, amateur hobbyists and even kids. You may find many fossils spread over a large area or just a piece of a fossil sticking out of the ground.
Excavation means digging up the fossils. The first step is to do some exploratory digging to determine the extent of the fossils. Many different types of tools are used in excavation so the fossils do not become damaged.
Mapping of the Site
In this very important step, the dig site is documented for scientific purposes. The documentation can include sketches of the site, photos and videos. As additional fossils are discovered during excavation, they are added to the site map. When the dinosaur fossils are completely excavated, the site map will show exactly where, and in what position, each fossil piece was found.
Trenches are dug initially to keep water off the specimen. In the preparation for the jacketing process the trenches are widened and deepened.
Jacket the Fossil
Layers of plaster and burlap, called a field jacket are placed around large sections of rock containing the fossil. This is done to protect the fossils as they are dug up and moved to the lab. Before the plaster and burlap are applied, a layer of tin foil or paper towel is put on first to aid in the removal of the fossil in the lab and also so the plaster doesn't stick to the fossil.
Prepare the fossils
Open the Jacket
In the lab, the field jacket is cut open using a special saw called a cast cutter.
Remove Rock from the Fossil
The rock around the fossil, called the matrix, is removed. Most of therock is removed with pneumatic tools, such as an air scribe. Once most of the rock is removed, small hand tools are used to complete the work.
Clean the Fossil
Once they have done all they can with hand tools, preparators clean the last remaining bits of rock using an air abrasive unit.
Flipping the Blocks
Once the exposed side of the fossil is completely prepared, the block will need to be flipped over so the other side can be prepared. This usually involves making a support jacket for the prepared side to support the weight of the fossil without damaging what has already been prepared. This can be an awkward procedure and very dangerous for the specimen as there is the chance the specimen could be dropped or fall out of its field jacket. After flipping, the reverse side of the fossil can be prepared.
Re-create Missing Fossils
If parts of the fossilized skeleton are missing from the dinosaur, the missing fossil areas are recreated by making molds in rubber, then copies of plastic from other dinosaur fossils.
|Ship the fossils to the museum
Make a Armature
The exhibit developers decide how the dinosaur will be posed and a metal frame, called an armature, is made to support it.
Put the Fossils Together
The fossils are assembled on the armature to make sure they all fit together.
Display at the Museum
The fossils are shipped to the museum for display. The preparation is complete!