Tyrannosaurs at the National Museum of Scotland

Happy Museum Monday! We’ve got a great treat to share with you today. This past weekend, Mr Fox and I visited the new TYRANNOSAURS exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. It was created by the Australian Museum, and has already toured Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh will apparently be its only showing in Europe!

The exhibition explores the latest palaeontological tyrannosaur discoveries and the evolution of tyrannosaurs, and how natural selection and environmental change affected their transformation from carnivores little bigger than ourselves to the massive predators we think of when we hear the word ‘tyrannosaur’. Did you know that around 25 different species of tyrannosaur have so far been discovered, which came in all shapes and sizes? I didn’t, and neither did my 5 year old, who probably knows more about dinosaurs than I do. It completely blew his mind that there are other tyrannosaurs besides the famous T.rex, and that the tiny dinosaurs featured in the exhibition were in fact not baby T.rexes but simply smaller species of tyrannosaur. 

The exhibition features some extremely rare fossil specimens, cast skeletons, skulls, and models of feathered dinosaurs. Each of the skeletons comes with an information panel, which tells you the name of the specimen, its size, when and where it lived, and some other interesting facts. Mr Fox was super interested in this and had me read all the info out to him. There were also touch screens with additional info on the tyrannosaurs’ habitats and virtual renditions of what they would have looked liked when they were alive, which you could zoom in on and examine closer.

One display showed several tyrannosaur skulls from different species next to each other, to show the similarities and diversities, and what variations in structure can tell us about different hunting and feeding strategies. Some replicas on open display gave visitors the chance to touch and feel, including a thigh bone, some T.rex teeth, and a pile of dung. Of course, the kids all thought it was hilarious that they could touch some ‘real’ dinosaur poop. 

Whilst the specimens and models are the stars of the show, the exhibition uses some really cool multimedia effects to enhance the visitor experience. On entering the exhibition, you are led down a path lined with screens, several foot high, showing images of real life Edinburgh streets and buildings, including the museum. These are layered with computer animated video footage of tyrannosaurs roaming the streets, and it really feels like you are walking around Edinburgh among the dinosaurs. The scenes change from day to night time too, and Mr Fox’s favourite part was when a tyrannosaur tries to eat a street lamp! 

Another popular multimedia interactive was the large tabletop touchscreen showing the tyrannosaur family tree. Visitors have to work together to hatch eggs, and gather clues about the hatched tyrannosaurs to then drag them to the right nodes on the tree. Despite the instructions, we had no idea what was going at first and it was all a bit bonkers with so much happening on screen at once, but after playing it three times we soon got the hang of it. The kids’ favourite bit, however, was when the tree is completed and a fiery shower of meteorites descends to destroy all the dinosaurs – then you start the game again. I had to literally drag Mr Fox away from the table to go see the rest of the exhibition, with promises that we would come back again another time with his brother (who was ill that day) to play the game again.

Other interactive experiences included one where you test your strength and one where you have to jump as hard as you can to create meteorites to destroy the dinosaurs (bit of a recurring theme…) Another touch screen challenged you to find the key features that define a tyrannosaur from other dinosaur groups – it was harder than it looked, as we only found 3 out of 4 features. 

One experience that was particularly popular with the younger kids combined live video footage of visitors sitting in front of of a screen with augmented reality, to make it look like you were interacting with dinosaurs on screen. The kids all thought this was the best thing ever.

If you have kids who are obsessed with dinosaurs, then this is a pretty cool exhibition that you will get a lot out of. In terms of what age it is appropriate for, it’s hard to say. Mr Fox is 5 and he was super interested in everything, we stayed for over an hour. There were plenty of kids younger than him there though too. A few of them were freaking out and crying because it was all too scary for them – a T.rex shadow which suddenly comes ‘alive’ especially gave a couple of them a fright – but equally there were loads of tinies who were totally chilled with everything, so I think it depends a bit on the individual child. It’s £12 for adults, £6 for kids age 5+ and under 5s go free. If you have a big family and plan to go more than once, it would also be worth while looking at a family membership which also gives you discounts in the museum shops and cafes. There’s also a dinosaur activity sheet which we were given, to help us explore dinosaur related exhibits in the rest of the museum.

All in all, we thought this was an amazing exhibition and we can’t wait to go back with Oskar and daddy so they can see it too. 

Comments: 12

  • reply

    Kelly-Anne

    27 January 2020

    Wow that’s pretty incredible. I bet it was quite exciting being able to get so close in the exhibition. My daughter loves dinos, I’m sure when shes older she would love something like this.

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    27 January 2020

    I had no idea there were more than one type of T-Rex either!

    I have to say, I think it’s fabulous the experiences you offer your children x

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    27 January 2020

    One of mine is a big dino fan and would love to visit this. Shame we don’t live nearby and travel is so difficult. Your post was fantastic and very well written, thank you for sharing.

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    Jon

    27 January 2020

    Wow! this looks amazing. I would have loved going to something like this as a kid instead of all the boring museums I was dragged to lol

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    27 January 2020

    This looks like such an informative exhibition! So much to learn and that game really does look hard to step away from.

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    27 January 2020

    I would looove this! I find dinosaurs fascinating. I can’t get over how big the T Rex Skeleton is! We went to a cool dinosaur feature at Chester zoo but my eldest was scared!!!

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    27 January 2020

    Wow what an incredible exhibition! Shame non of the London museums have things like this, I think it would be a huge hit for many young kids.

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    Zoe

    28 January 2020

    This is amazing. I love that it is devoted entirely to the Tyrannosaur, and not just dinosaurs in general. It sounds very interactive and somewhere we would visit in a heartbeat.

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    28 January 2020

    That’s so exciting! I would love to go to this museum; it looks awesome!

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    29 January 2020

    My daughter would adore this, such a shame we are so far away

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    1 February 2020

    Firstly my boys and I loved visiting this museum a year back although this expo wasn’t there but they would of loved it!! Dinos for the win

    Laura x

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