As a paleontologist, one of the most fascinating parts of my job is visiting museums to analyze the fossil specimens that are on display or are in collections for research. Whenever I frequent to a natural history museum, the first item on my list is to visit the museum’s dinosaur exhibit. While I have visited a number of museums, there was one museum that caught my attention and has since been on my list of museums to return to, regarding business (e.g. studying the fossils on display and in collections) and pleasure ( e.g. being in awe at the fossil specimens). The museum that I am referring to is the Dinosaur Discovery Museum of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
What makes the Dinosaur Discovery Museum special is that it displays a variety of meat-eating theropod dinosaur skeletons such as Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Velociraptor, and many more. It also features skeletons of living birds such as a chicken, ostrich, and a dove. This works as a way to show the evolutionary link between the meat-eating dinosaurs and birds, as dinosaurs are related to birds with both having a wishbone, hollow bones, and three toed feet.
While that is the general description for the museum, here is my reaction and review of the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, overall.
In 2017, I was brainstorming dinosaur museums to visit for my 23rd birthday. During my undergraduate, I was a volunteer docent for the Field Museum of Natural History, and I was interested in visiting a different museum. One museum that I came across was the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I watched a couple of videos for information on the museum and I decided to make a visit on my birthday, December 23, 2017. Fortunately the Dinosaur Discovery Museum was close to Chicago, via Metra.
Upon arriving to Kenosha and walking to the museum, I was in awe of what was standing outside the museum, a life-sized statue of Dilophosaurus (“two crested lizard”). Dilophosaurus was a medium-sized carnivorous dinosaur, characterized for the two crests on top of its head. It also appeared in the film, Jurassic Park, where it was given frills (similar to a frilled lizard) and was able to spit venom, something that Dilophosaurus could not do in real life. This was the first time, I had ever seen Dilophosaurus in a museum setting, as I had only seen pictures of it in books and online. I could not resist taking pictures of Dilophosaurus, as well as one with me in it for size comparison. After taking pictures of the Dilophosaurus statue, I entered the museum and was already amazed at what I could see from the front door.
Inside the museum was a gallery of numerous skeletal reconstructions of various theropod dinosaurs. I was already familiar with the theropod dinosaurs on display, as I have usually seen them in books or in documentaries. This was my first time seeing some of the new theropod dinosaurs, in person, and it was a spectacular sight to see. Some of the theropods included large theropods like Tyrannosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, and Suchomimus; medium-sized theropods like Carnotaurus and Ceratosaurus; and smaller theropods like Velociraptor and Coelophysis. Accompanying the theropod dinosaurs were skeletons of living birds such as a chicken, ostrich, and pigeon. The theropod skeletons had placards that listed the theropod’s name, its length and weight, the time period it lived in, where its bones were originally discovered, and facts about the theropod.
A major merit of the Dinosaur Discovery Museum was the inclusion of lesser-known dinosaurs. When it comes to the skeletons on display of dinosaur exhibits, the museums will usually show off more familiar dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus. These are dinosaurs that visitors are familiar with. I have visited numerous museums and I am more interested in seeing obscure dinosaurs than more familiar dinosaurs. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a perfect example of including Tyrannosaurus, a famous theropod, with more obscure theropod dinosaurs. I give praise to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum for not only including new dinosaurs but arranging them in real-life poses. Previously, museums had the skeletons of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals arranged in static poses (e.g. standing). There is a new trend where museums will have the dinosaur skeletons either fighting, standing, in a hunting/attack position, or in sleeping/resting pose. These positions help make the dinosaur skeletons feel more life-like, giving me and other guests an idea on dinosaur behavior, as well as imagining what they would have looked like if they were alive.
Each of the dinosaur skeletons were color coded with black representing the missing bones and the casts of the actual bones were painted to match the original fossils. When paleontologists look for fossils of dinosaurs, they are not always complete. The reason for this is that the bones could have been scavenged or were eroded due to weathering and environmental factors. Complete dinosaur fossils are rare. Whenever a paleontologist reconstructs a dinosaur’s skeletal mount and there are missing bones, they will use the bones of the dinosaur’s relative that is more complete to fill in the missing bones.
On an unrelated note, the museum’s Tyrannosaurus skeleton, Stan, was wearing a Santa Claus hat, to coincide with Christmas. Stan is the most duplicated T. rex fossil, resulting in more people seeing casts of Stan at various museums and theme parks, than any other Tyrannosaurus specimen.
In conclusion, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a fantastic museum, mostly due to the large theropod dinosaur diversity and attention to detail when depicting dinosaur behavior. I have been planning my eventual visit to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum only to be put on hold, due to the weather or scheduling conflicts. Despite these shortcomings, I greatly enjoyed my time at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum and highly recommend people to visit it, as a way of giving support to smaller museums.
There is no admission fee to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. Donations are accepted at the door.
5608 10th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53140
Tyrannosaurus (“tyrant lizard”); a large theropod dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period of North America that was characterized for its massive skull with powerfully, serrated teeth and tiny arms. See above "Stan" wearing the santa hat.
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My name is Evan Johnson-Ransom. I am currently Master's student at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. I previously received my Bachelor's from DePaul University, majoring in Biological Sciences concentrated in Evolution and Ecology. My graduate research focuses on the feeding behavior and biomechanics of theropods, a group of meat-eating dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex