Native language speakers to create new words for museum’s dinosaur exhibit

UA Museum of the North head of production Roger Topp and “Snaps.” (Photo by Dan Bross/KUAC)
UA Museum of the North head of production Roger Topp and “Snaps.” (Photo by Dan Bross/KUAC)

The University of Alaska Museum of the North opens a new exhibit Saturday. “Expedition Alaska: Dinosaurs” gives visitors the opportunity to experience paleontologists quest and what they’re finding in an underexplored region.

Amid the stapling, drilling and cutting of the dinosaur exhibit going up, Museum of the North earth science curator Pat Druckenmiller reflects on the aberrant natural environment Arctic Alaska dinosaurs roamed 70 million years ago.

Druckenmiller has spent the last eight years working in Alaska, looking for and finding evidence of dinosaurs in a part of the world where the creatures once walked, but few paleontologists have explored.

The museum exhibit includes casts of footprints as well as fossilized bone fragments Druckenmiller and fellow scientists are using to identify and even discover dinosaur species.

Druckenmiller is working with Alaska Native speakers to come up with names for the new Alaska dinosaurs. The exhibit takes visitors into what it’s to be paleontologist exploring for dinosaur evidence in Alaska’s backcountry.

Roger Topp heads up production at the museum and has accompanied the paleontology team to shoot photos and video. He’s also involved in fleshing out an exhibit, which includes dinosaur models, even one that moves.

Other kid friendly parts of the exhibit are a big orange tent fashioned after one paleontologists use in the field, and tubs of silt visitors can paw through to try and find fossils. Seeing it all come together and connecting scientific field work with the public is gratifying for Druckenmiller.

Druckenmiller says some of the special exhibit materials will be incorporated into the museum’s permanent dinosaur display, which hasn’t been updated in 30 years.

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