Wait ... where’s the T. rex?

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AMNH Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs closed until further notice


  • AMNH sign. Photo: Teddy Son

  • Visitors and fossil explainers with the replica of the T. rex skull. Photo: Teddy Son

Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History are likely to be greeted with a fair amount of disappointment in the coming weeks.

The museum’s Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, home to famous dinosaur specimens such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Apatosaurus, Allosaurus and Deinonychus, has been closed off to the general public following a plumbing accident on the floor right above it. Repairs are expected to take some time.

“A water pipe either burst or leaked on the fifth floor,” said Gregory Walters, one of the “fossil explainers” stationed on the fourth floor of the museum. “They didn’t give us much information.”

Either way, the hall has been closed from early October. Walters did say that it is likely to reopen before Thanksgiving.

“We always get a big crowd around Thanksgiving,” he said. “Thanksgiving, Christmas, those are the big crowds.”

He went on to explain that many were disappointed by the closure of the hall, especially because the visitors were not able to see the museum’s coveted centerpiece, the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Having stood in the museum since its discovery in 1906, the museum’s T. rex fossil has been an integral part of the museum for over a century. Its prominence can be seen in the museum’s official brochure, website, and more.

“Many mascots come and go, but he [the T. rex] has always been here,” said Walters, “half the people who come here come to see the T. rex.”

As a way to placate the disappointment of many museum-goers, the museum has brought out a life-size replica of the T. rex’s skull that visitors can touch and observe up close, a previously impossible task considering the actual skull is enclosed in a glass box. The skull on the T. rex skeleton is also a lightweight replica, due to the actual skull being too heavy to mount on its neck twenty feet in the air.

“The [museum’s] educational department deemed it necessary to compensate for the visitors,” said Walters.

True to Walters’ words, visitors can take pictures and touch the skull as much as they wish to, and it seems to be an immense success, drawing a steady stream of people. Visitors stand in line to get a picture with the skull, including ridiculous poses with their heads in the dinosaur’s mouth and the like. Fossil explainers such as Walters are stationed around the skull to explain and answer questions about the T. rex, or about dinosaurs and fossils in general.

The T. rex skull is located in the Astor Turret, an alcove directly overlooking Central Park on the fourth floor. It is only a minute’s walk away from the original Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, right off the Hall of Primitive Mammals.

Visitors looking to see other dinosaur fossils while the hall is still closed can go to the main hall of the museum on the second floor, where a mother Barosaurus is mounted on its hind legs, protecting her young from the jaws of a predatory Allosaurus. Another sauropod (long necked dinosaur) skeleton is on the fourth floor, that of the 122-foot long Patagotitan, colloquially known as “the Titanosaur.” In addition, the Hall of Ornithschian Dinosaurs still remains open, so visitors can look at specimens such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Edmontosaurus.

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