A T. Rex skeleton that was originally found in Montana will soon be heading to its new home in the Smithsonian Museum. The fossil is on an extended loan and will stay in the museum for the next 50 years.
So how will the fossil of a giant, carnivorous dinosaur reach the museum? As FedEx used to say back in 2003, "Don't worry, there's a FedEx for that." The T. Rex fossil will be transported by the good folks of FedEx from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in the National Mall of Washington, D.C. The giant fossil will serve as the pièce de résistance of the museum's National Fossil Hall.
"It's about time the Smithsonian had their own T. rex," said Museum of the Rockies marketing director Mark Robinson. "Seven million people a year will be seeing it, and we're OK with that. It will be good exposure for the Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University and the state."
While the Smithsonian Institution is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the T. Rex skeleton, the public won't be able to see it for another 5 years. The museum's fossil hall will be closing for renovations this April 28 and museum authorities say the process will take 5 years. The Smithsonian will be building a new 31,000 square foot National Fossil Hall.
The T. Rex was originally found in Eastern Montana in the year 1988 by Kathy Wankel and her family. The exact location where the fossil was found lies somewhere near the boundary of the Fort Peck reservoir in the vicinity of Nelson Creek. The fossil was first found by Tom Wankel, Kathy Wankel's husband. After seeing a small piece of white bone sticking out of the ground, Tom Wankel tried to expose more of the fossil. However, the ground proved to be quite hard and Tom Wankel decided to call on his wife and kids to help with the dig. Even with the entire Wankel family working on the excavation, the work proved long and tiresome. Moreover, a series of delays due to fire hazards in the excavation area also made the process more difficult.
After showing the exposed fossil to an expert from the Museum of the Rockies, the Wankels were ecstatic to learn of the significance of their find. Patrick Leiggi from the museum was the first expert on site but he soon called in his colleagues to verify the find. The Wankels and the crew from the Museum of the Rockies finished digging up the T. Rex skeleton in 1990.
"I like to think that us giving them a T. rex helped them build up the museum and get funding," said Wankel. "They've done a wonderful job."
Once the T. Rex arrives in Washington, the fossil will be carefully stored until the new dinosaur hall's opening in the year 2019.