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I guess it's time to mention what has been eating up a lot of my time lately
and why I've been pretty low-key. Here at NMNH we have been developing our
Triceratops project which will be discussed, in some form, on CNN tonight and
Saturday and Wired-Online, to start and we anticipate more press coverage as
things go on.
The project starts in a three-fold manner and will expand from there.
1. First, we are in the process of dis-assembling the Triceratops mount in our
dinosaur hall. This is the Triceratops, the first one I believe and the one the
whole concept of Triceratops is based on, that was mounted by Norman Boss and
Charles Gilmore between 1903-1905, under the direction of Hatcher, who
collected the material and pieced it together from multiple specimens. The
mount has been on display for almost a century and is in great need of
conservation. We will be making casts of the whole skeleton and remounting a
cast in a new posture - to be determined- and as part of an as yet undetermined
modification of our permanent dinosaur hall. The dis-assembly is about 50%+
done and Steve Jabo and Pete Kroehler have been doing a wonderful job with this
aspect. The original material will then be available for research and study.
Paleobiology chair Richard Benson, who used to work on ostracodes, is heading
up the project and Mike Brett-Surman is our in-house expert on things!
dinosaurian, with myself and a few others contributing as well. Linda Deck is
the project manager and exhibit developer working on various aspects of the
2. The new skeleton mount and lots of additional stuff will become part of the
big Dinofest in 2000, representing the Smithsonian and NMNH at that event with
other materials. More as Dinofest and the project develop on this phase as
3. And now for my part. We are doing something I have been wanting to do and
have been planning for 10 years or so. We have surface scanned enough of the
elements to construct an accurate virtual version of the whole skeleton. The
scanning is just complete and the first bones are starting to come in. Lisa
Federici of Scansite handled the arrangements for the scanning and I, as the
local technological coordinator for this part of the project, am working
closely with her and Art Andersen, who also has been wanting to do this for
years as well. Art has worked a lot with Sereno's material over the past few
years. The first bone, the humerus, came in yesterday and it looks beautiful.
Basically, we'll be creating the first accurate digital dinosaur.
This virtual data will allow us to prototype materials at a fraction of the
size - imagine a fully accurate skull that's 18 inches long and that you don't
need a forklift to look at and measure. Accuracy is sub-mm. We plan to
prototype and generate materials at various sizes, as well as do a large amount
of functional analyses using an assembled skeleton in virtual space. We
currently are brainstorming some ideas of exactly what we want to do here. For
example, we are planning, if all goes well, to prototype a 1/5 (more or less)
scale version of the whole skeleton.
The potential for using data from this later phase for testing functional
hypotheses and trying out vaious postures and doing animations is immense and
we're looking forward to doing these and additional things for research,
education and exhibition. The scans I've seen so far are incredibly accurate
and clearly show the small fractures in the bones, etc. We are also looking at
this technology as a way to preserve these one-of-a-kind items. I have a paper
with Art, Dave Weishampel, Diego Rasskin and Gene Hunt for the newest Dinofest
volume that will cover lots of this and I'm starting to organize volumes on
lots of this technology based on the symposium we had at SVP this year, which
had a number of great talks.
Anyway, things are starting to expand tremendously and I'll keep you posted as
things develop. I'm looking forward to having a small cast of the head on my
desk here and at home. It's pretty exciting here right now.
Ralph Chapman, NMNH