Make a date with dinos

Make a date with dinos

The creatures are waiting. Over 2,000 specimens to be exact, ranging from majestic dinosaur fossils to a bird in the collection of famed British naturalist Alfred Wallace, will be on show to the public on April 28 at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Chang Ai-Lien takes a look inside, and checks out the book which tells its story.

Early days

The idea of setting up a museum in Singapore goes back to 1823, when Sir Stamford Raffles founded the Singapore Institution.

Formally established as the Raffles Library and Museum in 1878, Singapore's natural history museum began life in Stamford Road in 1887, exhibiting preserved animal specimens from South-east Asia.

Over the years, it became known as the Raffles Museum and National Museum - which had collections of natural history, anthropology and art.

In 1972, after it split from the National Museum, it was often referred to as the Raffles Collection or the Raffles Natural History Collection. After it became ensconced in the Department of Zoology at the National University of Singapore, it became known as the Zoological Reference Collection and, from 1998, formed the core of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Now it has found a permanent home at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, where the displays, such as this one which includes crocodiles, and a Komodo dragon skeleton, are designed to evoke excitement and interest in the diversity of life. Rather than cluttering the displays with text, the researchers behind it created a special app that allows visitors to get details on each exhibit using their smartphones.

Source: Of Whales And Dinosaurs

The whale that got away

In 1892, the museum acquired a 42-foot (12.8m) skeleton of an Indian fin whale which died after being stranded near Malacca.

Lack of space at the museum prevented the skeleton from being properly mounted for display, and it remained in storage for the next 15 years.

In 1907, the skeleton was finally mounted. Missing bones - a scapula, the "hands", and several vertebrae and ribs - were modelled out of wood and plaster of paris and the whole skeleton "was suspended by steel ropes from the ceiling".

When unveiled, it was undoubtedly "the most striking exhibit in the Zoological gallery".

The museum now had on display a specimen of the world's largest creature in its galleries.

In May 1974, after the National Museum gave up its natural history collection to the Science Centre, the whale was taken down, dismantled into three pieces and sent by truck as a gift to the Muzium Negara (National Museum) in Kuala Lumpur.

Source: Of Whales And Dinosaurs

Dino delights

Three dinosaurs will be the highlight of the museum.

Skeletons of the three diplodocid sauropods, some of the biggest creatures to walk on earth some 150 million years ago, were found together at a quarry in Wyoming in the United States, and are more than 80 per cent complete.

Two of them - Apollonia and Prince - were adults measuring 24m and 27m respectively from head to tail, while the baby dinosaur, Twinky, was 12m long. After they were uncovered, the bones were first wrapped in paper towels and encased in a protective plaster and burlap cast. They were then moved to a lab where the casing was removed. Once the bones were exposed, the rock was chipped off, and a strengthening liquid was added to preserve and harden the fossils.

In Singapore, the bones were authenticated by putting them through CT scans. Then the dinosaurs were pieced together again on a custom-built frame, with missing pieces filled in with resin parts made from casts.


This article was first published on April 13, 2015.
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