Age of dinosaurs coming to life at Lafayette museum

Allosauruses, Camptosauruses and Torvosauruses. Oh my!

Those and other dinosaur models from the prehistoric era will be on display at the Lafayette Science Museum when a new exhibit opens April 5.

The Lafayette Science Museum hopes to transport visitors back to the age of dinosaurs with the opening of the exhibit “Fossil Giants: Dinosaurs & Mammals,” which was developed in partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s School of Geosciences.

Dynamically posed fossil casts forming life-size dinosaur models will be on display, as well as the university’s extensive collection of minerals, rocks and fossils.

The 6,000-square-foot exhibit is the first of three installments that tell the tale of how dinosaurs and, eventually, mammals evolved over millions of years.

“It’s really such a unique approach we’re taking,” said Kevin Krantz, Lafayette Science Museum director. “To keep it interesting, we’re telling the story — this is the beginning.”

The exhibit will roll out over three years in three installments, each representing a different time period: the Jurassic and Triassic periods, the Cretaceous period and the Miocene epoch.

The first two installments focus solely on dinosaurs, and the third introduces mammals.

Fossil casts in the first installment have been set up to present a realistic depiction of dinosaurs during the Triassic and Jurassic periods.

“They are posed in action as if they would be alive,” Krantz said. “Two Allosauruses, for example, are posed attacking a plant-eating Camptosaurus.”

Of the exhibit’s 10 full-size dinosaur skeletons, one of the largest is the 30-foot-long Torvosaurus, a predecessor to the Tyrannosaurus rex that walked the earth 148 to 150 million years ago.

UL-Lafayette provided much of the expertise that went into developing the dinosaur exhibit in conjunction with the Lafayette Science Museum, said David Borrok, director of the university’s School of Geosciences.

“We have James Martin, a world-renowned paleontologist at the university who has really done most of the work,” he said.

The opening of the dinosaur display also will coincide with the opening of UL-Lafayette’s geology museum, which moved to the Lafayette Science Museum last year.

“We’re really excited about it because we’ll have the opportunity to have so many more people see our collection,” Borrok said.

The university’s geology museum was originally located in Madison Hall on campus but was rarely visited.

Its collection includes thousands of items, from dinosaur fossils to rare minerals, collected over five decades.

In partnering with UL-Lafayette’s School of Geosciences, the museum intended to shift its focus to a more local angle, which is just what it did with its new dinosaur exhibit.

“It’s not a traveling exhibit,” Krantz said. “It’s a private collection that the university and the museum are curating, so it’s really special in that it’s made from scratch.”

Both the dinosaur display and the university’s geology museum will be on the first floor of the museum.

Krantz said the exhibit is presented in such a way that children can understand, while it also provides enough information to keep adults entertained.

“The exhibit is visually stunning,” he said. “The specimens are so large, and there’s so much to look at. It’s going to take viewers a while to digest everything there is to offer.”

The dinosaur fossil casts are owned by DinoLab, a company in Utah that designs and builds dinosaur exhibits for museums worldwide.

The Lafayette Science Museum dedicated its new exhibit to the company’s founders, paleontologists James and Sue Madsen.