Museum renovated, a bone at a timeAssociated Press
Published April 3, 2005
PITTSBURGH - Two men stood atop folding ladders. One cradled the skull of an allosaurus, his hands behind its 3-inch curved serrated teeth. The other probed under the jaw with a screwdriver.
Onlookers stood in silence until four screws were removed then burst into applause as the dinosaur's head was freed, taken down the ladder and placed in a foam-filled crate.
The delicate task of dismantling dinosaurs has begun at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which has one of the oldest and largest dinosaur collections in the country.
Starting Tuesday and for the next three years, visitors will be able to watch as five fossilized skeletons are disassembled as part of a $35-million renovation of the Pittsburgh museum's almost century-old Dinosaur Hall.
The allosaurus, along with a diplodocus, an apatosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus rex and a protoceratops, will be reassembled in more dramatic and scientifically accurate poses.
During the next nine months, the dinosaurs will be taken apart piece by piece and sent to New Jersey, where they will be restored to last 100 more years.
The team is led by Phil Fraley, who has been taking dinosaurs apart and putting them back together for museums for the past 15 years.
Fraley has wanted to get his hands on the Carnegie collection for at least seven years. He worked as a consultant with the museum in 2001, looking over the fossilized skeletons to see how well they fared.
"Looking at these, what you are dealing with are irreplaceable objects," Fraley said. "Paleontologists might continue to find specimens around the world, but the completeness and uniqueness of these will never be found again. This is a treasure."
The dinosaurs will be kept together as much as possible to preserve the original metal armatures and reduce damage. They will be cleaned and coated in shellac again, and any loose parts will be reglued.
The restoration will be painstakingly documented so one day it can be redone.
"You never do anything that can't be undone," Fraley said. "You never know when a scientist 100 years in the future will find that anatomically, something is not right."