News & Opinion | June 27, 2018 11:08 am

Smithsonian Now Excavating Dinosaur Bones From the Museum Itself

In final stage of renovations, the museum dug out fossil exhibits formerly plastered into the walls.

dinosaur
The dinosaur hall is undergoing a $48 million renovation, during which each dinosaur will be dismantled, cleaned and remounted. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

In an ironic twist, the Smithsonian has now been forced to excavate dinosaur bones from the very museum itself.

As the final part of the museum’s five-year renovation, fossils like the Gorgosaurus, which were half-encased and mounted for display on walls are now being chiseled out do be moved and re-displayed. The petrified bones stick out of what is painted to look like rock, but is really plaster, chicken wire and burlap fibers. Those layers all sit on top of some wooden beams and steel rods that hold the specimen in place.

“It’s a lasagne of materials,” says Kirk Johnson, the museum’s director to The Atlantic about one of the dinosaur fossils. “We had to drill it out of the old exhibit.”

The staff now has extricate other dinosaurs out from similar embedded exhibits. Many specimens that were acquired in the early years of the dinosaur hall, opened in 1911, were drilled, touched-up, or molded into plaster or concrete.