By Taylor Hartz
October 18, 2017
Since her arrival at the Field Museum in 2000, SUE the dinosaur has drawn in more than 16 million visitors to see her 67-million-year-old set of bones. The T-Rex skeleton has stood proudly in the museum’s main hall for 17 years, as the largest, most complete and best preserved of its kind.
But soon, SUE will be retired as the main attraction in Stanley Field Hall, and moved upstairs to a more permanent exhibit. A fiberglass model of a newer, bigger dinosaur will take her place.
In 2018, the museum will welcome a composite of fiberglass and fossil specimens from Argentina that form a model of the largest dinosaur known to man – the 122 foot Patagotitan mayorum, or “titanosaur.”
The model will be nearly twice the size of SUE, and will allow visitors to get much closer. No velvet ropes will keep visitors away from the titanosaur, they will be able to walk around it, under it, and even touch it.
While it may seem like the new dinosaur is stealing the spotlight from SUE, Kate Golembiewski, public relations and scientific communication specialist for the museum, said SUE will be getting some much needed updates and will be a more impressive sight in her new location.
The museum will be building a new environment for SUE in the Evolving Planet Exhibition, where they will recreate a T.rex habitat. Scientists will also be adding bones to the skeleton that have been discovered since her 2000 arrival in Chicago, making her even larger.
Golembiewski said that over the years, many visitors to the museum have commented that SUE wasn’t as big as they expected.
“She’s the biggest T.rex in the world, it’s just a huge room,” said Golembiewski of the 800 square foot hall where SUE has been on display.
“You didn’t really get a sense of what a gigantic specimen she is, she was dwarfed by that room,” Golembiewski said.
“We’re giving her a place where she’ll really shine.”
Despite making a new home for SUE, visitors to the museum this summer expressed disappointment that SUE would be leaving her familiar spot.
Carrying two stuffed dinosaurs from the museum for a grandson back home in New Mexico, Lena Ernst said she would prefer to see the real skeleton on display, and that a fiberglass model won’t be the same.
“If we come all the way out here to see one of the biggest museums, we expect to see actual relics,” said Ernst.
On a road trip from California to Tennessee, the Bolger family chose a stop in Chicago to see SUE over a stop at the Grand Canyon. Their three little boys learned about SUE in a book about dinosaurs, and wanted to see the T.rex in person.
The family had just one day in Chicago, their first time in the city, and spent over seven hours at the Field Museum. SUE was the highlight.
“It was my favorite thing in the whole museum,” said 7-year-old Gideon Bolger, “It was actually the whole reason we came to this museum.
As four-year-old Emmett Bolger played with his small green T. rex toy from the museum, the middle brother, Ephraim Bolger, said he was excited to finally see SUE, but he expected it to be a bit bigger, noting that she wasn’t longer than a charter bus.
According to Golembiewski, the new titanosaur model will be longer than two accordion style CTA buses combined.
“This is going to be the largest and the most engaging cast we’ve had,” said Golembiewski “It’s a first for us.”
The Chicago cast will have its head held high, said Golembiewski, and guests can take selfies with its head, which will reach up to eye level at the 30 foot balcony.
The new model is expected to go up in 2018, and SUE will come down from her post early in the year. Golembiewski said it will take about a year to add her bones and create her new habitat – but she won’t be out of sight for long. Though there may be a few days that SUE isn’t on display, visitors can expect to see her during the transition, and even catch a glimpse of the scientists working to add to her skeleton, and replicate a T.rex habitat.