The practice of palaeontology encapsulated

This sign / collage sits in the doorway of the dinosaur gallery in the Tokyo museum and it is a truly superb summary of the art and science behind a dinosaur discovery. In a few quick moments, you can grasp what it really means to discover a dinosaur and give it a name. What actually happens from the moment there is bone seen on the surface through to an official name being published in a paper and a new entry being added to the roll-call of Dinosauria.

It is, is short, brilliant. Clever, succinct and important, it also helps give gravitas and explanation behind what the academic side of this is actually about and that these huge monsters in the next room are not just cool, but fascinating animals about which we have learned much, continue to learn more, and that this is all based on bones and scientific discovery, and not guesswork. The gallery illustrates what dinosaurs are all about, in addition to being a simply entertaining display of big dead lizards.

I’d love to see more of these kinds of signs in museums. People can always not read them if they are not interested, but for those who are, it’s a massive boon and really helps sets the scene. I’m sure large numbers of people simply don’t realise there are such things as academic papers, or what is required to officially name a new species, or quite how you get from ‘field palaeontology’ to ‘this animal did X’ which are the only two things you tend to see in documentaries. This is however, an especially nice and fundamentally clever display to have got this in such clarity in such a small space.

3 Responses to “The practice of palaeontology encapsulated”


  1. 1 Helen J. DeMarsh 24/08/2011 at 8:43 am

    Is there a translation of this exhibit available somewhere? As a paleontologist working in exhibits in a museum, I would really like to be able to present the inner workings of the field in such a manner.


  1. 1 The horse (of course) « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 28/11/2011 at 9:24 am

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