In The Pipeline: Museum gets down to the bones

July 13, 2011|By Chris Epting
  • Luis Chiappe in the new Dinosaur Hall.
Luis Chiappe in the new Dinosaur Hall. (Chris Epting, HB…)

In this column this summer, I've wanted to occasionally focus on a few things slightly outside of Huntington Beach. As a travel writer, I enjoy sharing interesting places, especially for families, and this week provided something special.

By now, you may have heard about the new Dinosaur Hall opening at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park. It's a 14,000-square-foot hall, twice the size of the museum's old dinosaur galleries, and will feature more than 300 fossils and 20 complete mounts of dinosaurs and sea creatures.

As described by the museum, "The hall will rival the world's leading dinosaur halls for the number of individual fossils displayed, the size and spectacular character of the major mounts, including the world's only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, and the accessible integration of recent scientific discoveries and research into the displays."

Last week, I was given an early tour of the hall, and it was beyond impressive — it was breathtaking. Some of you may know that dinosaurs play a big part in my family's world. At age 5, our son, Charlie, proclaimed that he was going to be a paleontologist, and from there, there has been no looking back.


At 17 years old now, he's put in a lot of field work (and I've had the pleasure of taking part, too). That museum was like a second home to us, both as spectators, and then as volunteers in the lab.

The famed dinosaur hunter, Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the museum, has been instrumental in mentoring Charlie along his path, and so we've heard about these major plans over the years.

But what Chiappe unveiled for us this week was beyond what we'd imagined.

"I'm a bit tired, but otherwise OK," he chuckled last week in the shadow of a looming T. rex skeleton. "This has been a long time coming and lots of work for my team and I, but I think we've achieved what we set out to do — we've truly created a world-class dinosaur exhibit that we hope will thrill visitors. My colleagues will be here next week, though, and of course I'm especially interested in what they think."

I've written about Chiappe before. Both in the field and back in the office, he is a grand thinker, leader and scientist — the "star of the show," as museum President and Director Jane Pisano called him.

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