Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Dinosaur Discovery Museum focuses on the specific connection between dinosaurs and birds, presenting ongoing research and a collection of fossil records in partnership with the Carthage College Institute of Paleontology, whose laboratory is located at the museum.
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Permanent exhibits at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum trace the history of present-day birds to avian dinosaurs and back to theropod, or non-flying, dinosaurs. This fossil record is one of the most complete in our understanding of evolution, and is seen in action at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. Dinosaur Discovery is home to the nation’s largest collection of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs, with 25 specimens representing 18 different species. All dinosaurs in the museum’s main gallery are casts of real-life dinosaur fossils and full skeletons are clearly marked as to which bones are true fossil replicas, and which bones are artist renderings. Exhibit technology imbues the displays with the sounds of dinosaurs and the weather and world around them in the Mesozoic era, over 65 million years ago.
The Dinosaurs of Hell Creek exhibit displays actual fossils from the Carthage Institute of Paleontology’s expeditions to the Hell Creek Formation in southeastern Montana. The bountiful site is home to Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus rex, the most iconic of dinosaurs. Carthage’s paleontologists, students and volunteers travel to the site each summer. The exhibit displays what it’s like to live and work in their paleontology camp. Highlights of the finds on display include a large tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex found in 2007, a vertebrae from a Triceratops also found in 2007 and the fossil of a seed, found next to the shin bone of a duck-billed dinosaur. Plant fossils are important in understanding the world the dinosaurs lived in and what the environment was like at the time.
At the Carthage Institute’s on-site laboratory, museum goers can see the results of current and ongoing research, actual dinosaur specimens, and how fossils collected from the Hell Creek Formation are prepared and conserved. Thus far, the research team has found four partial dinosaur skeletons at the Bureau of Land Management’s Hell Creek site. These specimens are brought to the Kenosha museum, which has federal repository status. In 2006, the team discovered ‘Little Clint.’ At just over 2 years old when he died, Little Clint was the youngest Tyrannosaurus rex to have ever been found.
History: The Dinosaur Discovery Museum was founded in 2006, and is housed in a renovated 1908 Beaux Arts building that is now a historic landmark. The building, designed by the architect James Knox Taylor, was completed in 1910 and first served as the city’s post office. It was then moved, one foot at a time, across the street to its current location, where it housed the Kenosha Public Museum, which opened in 1936. The Public Museum is now located in a new building on the waterfront.
Thomas Carr of Carthage College serves as the museum’s scientific advisor. An Associate Professor in the College’s paleontology department, Carr manages the Field School Program at Hell Creek in Montana. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, and is also an accredited museum with the American Alliance of Museums. Over 40,000 visitors attend exhibits and programs at the museum each year.
Ongoing Programs and Education: School group tours are available for all ages, beginning at the preschool level. Thirty to sixty minute programs cover age appropriate topics. The museum also loans ‘Discovery Boxes’ from its collection of specimens, maps and reproductions, and over 700 videos and DVDs for off-site programs. Guided adult group tours are available for groups of nine or more.
Events at the museum include Dino Digs, a weekly program that takes place each Saturday and Sunday. The fun, interactive program allows young aspiring paleontologists to dig for their own ‘fossils.’ Also ongoing, but less often, is the Carnivore Carnivale program, a Sunday afternoon of Dino Digs, scavenger hunts, and dinosaur-themed games. The Museum’s Sensory Day is a special early-morning event for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The museum’s exhibits are open under dimmed lights and limited sounds. Children may participate in hands-on activities, or rest in the museum’s quiet room.
What’s Nearby: Located in downtown Kenosha along the shore of Lake Michigan, Dinosaur Discover is part of a consortium of museums that includes the Kenosha Public Museum and the Civil War Museum. The location is also a thriving district for shopping, dining and outdoor recreation.
5608 Tenth Avenue, Kenosha, WI 53140, Phone: 262-653-4450