Geologic Time nearly ready

BISMARCK Imagine dinosaurs battling each other. Or a giant sea turtle the size of a small car.

These are among the many features of the new Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time that is nearly completed in the North Dakota Heritage Center expansion in Bismarck.

Life-size casts of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and Triceratops skeleton have been installed, said John Hoganson, state paleontologist with the North Dakota Geological Survey in Bismarck, noting some of the features of the new gallery.

He said the Tyrannosaurus or T.rex and Triceratops are in a combative posture. “Through computer animation the T.rex and Triceratops do battle on special iPad screens that are activated by the visitor. This is called Cretascope it is augmented reality technology,” Hoganson said.

The Underwater World exhibit features an approximately 24-foot long mosesaur and a huge fish called the Xiphactinus that lived in these waters 80 million years ago, Hoganson said.

“The third large skeleton is from a giant sea turtle called Archelon. That skeleton is as big as a Volkswagen Beetle,” he said.

The Geologic Time exhibit hall contains several displays.

Hoganson said the displays include:

An orientation area where a discussion of the formation of the Williston Basin is given (this includes oil well core samples and other rocks from North Dakota).

The Underwater World with the Xiphactinus, Archelon and mosasaur.

When Dinosaurs Ruled including T. rex, Triceratops and many other fossils.

North Dakota Everglades with the skeleton of a 12-foot-long crocodile and a large display of fossil plants from North Dakota including North Dakota’s state fossil Teredo- bored petrified wood.

North Dakota Savana with skeletons of many extinct mammals including giant pigs and a 30-million-year old horse that was about the size of a greyhound dog.

The Great Ice Age featuring a Bison latifrons skeleton being attacked by two saber-toothed cats and a giant ground sloth about 8 feet tall.

The Learning Lab which discusses the formation of lignite coal and petroleum with exhibits of coal samples, oil cores, and many other rocks. The Learning Lab also has a fluorescent rock and mineral display.

The Geologic Time gallery is nearly completed but there’s some “fine tuning” of the exhibits being done right now, Hoganson said.

“All of the animals and plants in the new exhibit hall are based on fossils found in North Dakota. For example, the giant sea turtle Archelon we have found remains in North Dakota (in the Cooperstown area) but no skeleton so we have a cast of it. We have actual fossil bones displayed with the cast. That’s the way it is throughout the gallery,” Hoganson said.

He said a skeleton of the massive Bison latifrons is displayed in the Geologic Time gallery. “Another display in Geologic Time has skulls of Bison latifon, Bison antiquus and Bison bison for comparison and there is a discussion about the evolution of bison in the Geologic Time gallery,” Hoganson said.

“This gallery is about the geological history and the history of life in North Dakota about 500 million years ago up to about 12,000 years ago. It interprets the geology and evolution of life before the appearance of human beings in the state,” Hoganson said.

“We will have on exhibit 500-million-year-old fossils. The fossils are brachiopods clamlike animals that lived in an ocean that covered North Dakota at the time. These fossils are in an oil well core from several thousand feet below the surface,” he said.

Originally the Geologic Time gallery was scheduled to open this fall but delays in construction moved its opening to 2014. It is now expected to open in the spring.

The grand opening for the new building the Geological Time gallery and other galleries is scheduled for November 2014, in conjunction with North Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood.

The story of North Dakota’s history in the new 39,000-square-feet of exhibit space double the current galery size continues in other galleries.

The Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples is about history and culture of Native Americans and the state. Hoganson said the plan is to have a Bison antiquus skeleton in the Early Peoples gallery.

“The third gallery, called the Governor’s Gallery, will allow us to have traveling exhibits in the building,” Hoganson said.

He said the fourth gallery the current existing gallery is being totally renovated and will be called the Inspiration Gallery. He said the Inspiration Gallery will tell the recent history of North Dakota, including the history of agriculture and the energy industry in the state. “The exhibits in that gallery will bring the history up to the present time,” he said.

Recent inventions and technological advances such as the Bakken and other formations that produce petroleum, fracking, the lignite industry and wind energy will be included in the Inspiration Gallery, along with information about the Cold War and space technology. “It will be a real comprehensive gallery,” he said.

With the Geological Time Gallery nearly complete, he said installation of exhibits in the Early Peoples Gallery has started. That gallery will be completed about the end of January. The next phase will be the installation of the Inspiration Gallery.

He said there will be soft openings for the Geological Time and Early Peoples galleries this spring. Plans are not totally finalized for the soft openings but it is expected there will be special viewings and programs.

The next major event will be the grand opening in November 2014.

Having the Geological Time gallery nearly completed has been a real morale booster after the past two years or more of the work on developing and setting up exhibits, Hoganson said, who, along with others, has been involved in the new galleries’ project for the past months.

“Completion of the Geologic Time gallery has lifted our spirits because we are now seeing the results of many months of developing the exhibits and interpretive information about the exhibits,” Hoganson said.

“It is also wonderful to see our fine fossil specimens from the state fossil collection on display so everyone can see them, enjoy them and learn from them. Some of the fossils are even available for the visitor to get up close and touch them, to have that experience. The Geologic Time gallery will be an unprecedented educational experience for educators, kids and the general public in North Dakota,” he said.