The Great Pterosaur Exhibition of 2007

While I have at least mentioned the Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting of Munich a few times here (for full coverage go here on Tetrapod Zoology) there were wider events going on in Munich at the time in which I was naturally involved. The Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology where I was working at the time is a very small place – the main hall is perhaps 10m by 15m and based around a balcony but still manages to cram in a huge amount of material. Each autumn they prepare a small exhibit on a specialised topic and with the Flugsaurier meeting already planned for October, the obvious choice was for a display on pterosaurs. Now this is a year old, and no longer on display it seemed like a good time for me to have a little retrospective and for you to sit through it.

Since this had to be done primarily in German, obviously it was my boss Oli Rauhut who did most of the writing (and for those used to my e-mails, it was probably for the best anyway) though the whole thing was planned and designed by the two of us. Actually I was rather proud of the fact that the exhibit was ultimately produced with a reduced version of the text in English. This was the first time this had been done at the BSPG so I understand, which gave access to the quite high numbers of non-German visitors that come each year. I found the whole proceedure it to be immense fun, selecting the areas we wanted to cover, which specimens and casts would go on display and where, what examples we would use to illustrate various concepts, how to get it across in a limited space, and do it all on time and to a budget. We were helped enormously by Luis Rey and John Sibbick, who despite being professional artists, generously allowed us to use their pterosaur works free of charge.

We had ten poster boards to fill as well as two large cabinets and three large desk-type cabinets. Each board was devoted to an area of pterosaur research, a title, three covered their origin and systematics, one each for the rhamphorhyncoids and pterodactyloids, one on their anatomy, on major fossil beds, one on locomotion, one on pterosaur researchers. One cabinet was devoted to our collection of skull casts of various species, and the other to various large pieces (including a cast of a Quetzalcoatlus humerus and a copy of the Yale Rhamphorhynchus). The tables contained various small pieces such as wings, tails, casts of the Munich Pterodactylus and the Zittel wing and more. Finally, on permanent exhibition are Wellnhofer’s own models of a Pteranodon skeleton and Rhamphorhynchus reconstructions (shown above), and to this was added a life reconstruction of the Tapejara which bears his name – T. wellnhoferi (bottom).

It is worth pointing out that Peter Wellnhofer was a superb artist and modeller in his own right and actually did pretty much all his own illustrations for his work and many life reconstructions too. The Pteranodon especially he crafted from scratch as he also did with a rather trickier Rhamphorhynchus skeleton and life models. It’s really quite an achievement.

These exhibits are temporary and are replaced each year so sadly (for me anyway) by the time this post goes up they will no longer be on show in the museum. Still, I do have a set of photos of the event and I know that they boards are safely in storage should they be needed again (I’ll have to push for a 10 anniversary revival at some point, probably in about 9 years).
I should also point out the hard work that went to putting together the display with the graphics department transferring Oli and my plans, photos and text to reality and the museum preparators who organised the cabinets and labels for us. I would like to think that it was a great little exhibition and I was delighted with the feedback from many of my peers during the Flugsaurier meeting.

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