Museum unveils dino stars

Museum unveils dino stars
Guests snapping pictures of the three diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons, Prince, Apollonia and Twinky, on display at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Singapore's newest museum, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, yesterday unveiled its prehistoric stars Prince, Apollonia and Twinky.

The three diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs, among the biggest creatures to walk the earth 150 million years ago, were viewed by more than 250 guests, including President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The skeletons are displayed under special lighting and with sound effects. Judging from the crowd's reaction to the four-minute "dino show", which is played every half-hour, this will be a star attraction.

The seven-storey museum at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in Kent Ridge opens its doors to the public on April 28 and offers much more than giant bones.

It has 2,000 other specimens, including a prized Asian Brown Flycatcher bird collected by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder of the theory of evolution alongside Charles Darwin.

Singapore's first natural history museum traces its roots to the original Raffles Museum, the oldest such institution in the region.

Established through philanthropic gifts totalling $56 million, it aims to be a leader in South-east Asian biodiversity and conservation research, education and outreach.

Aside from its public exhibition space, a large area will be set aside for more than a million specimens to be used for research, with classrooms and teaching labs.

Dr Tan said in his speech: "This museum will serve to educate many generations of Singaporeans on the importance of protecting our heritage and contribute to regional and global biodiversity research."

A 200-year-old, 2.7m tusk of the narwhal, a marine mammal known as the "unicorn of the ocean", which once belonged to Singapore pioneer "Whampoa" Hoo Ah Kay, caught the eye of Mr Bernard Toh, 55, director of projects and communications in the NUS Office of the President.

"The narwhal's spire is such an elegant piece," he said. It was donated to the museum by Whampoa's great-granddaughter last year. Environmentalist Ria Tan gave the thumbs up to the heritage gallery with its "Cabinets of Curiosity".

Visitors can open doors and drawers to learn more about the displays, which include animal specimens used for research.

Said Ms Tan: "To me, this is why we have a museum - it's not just pretty stuffed animals but about science, learning, understanding, and passing it on to the next generation."

One artefact, a leather-bound book called An Introduction To Malayan Birds, was written by British ornithologist Guy Charles Madoc using typewriter and paper taken covertly from the Japanese when he was in Changi Prison during World War II.

The $8 million dinosaur skeletons, of which Prince is the largest at 4m high and 27m long, are the museum's centrepiece. They were acquired in 2011 from an American fossil company that found the remains between 2007 and 2010.

Said 22-year-old NUS student Sean Yap, another of yesterday's guests: "The dinosaurs are going to be a crowd puller."

This article was first published on April 19, 2015.
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