There’s a large Camptosaurus aphanoecetes just inside the door of the National Dinosaur Museum. The information plaque tells me it is from the Jurassic period, which occurred around 199.6 million to 145.5 million years ago. It’s a species of ornithopod dinosaur which was found in the ‘Morrison Formation’ in North America.
It’s also unforgettable.
Entering the museum’s upstairs display areas, pterosaurs greet you at the start of the journey which takes visitors through the dinosaur eras, from the Triassic, through the Jurassic, Cretaceous, Late Cretaceous, extinction and the amazing megafauna.
Many of the displays in the museum have been recently refreshed and expanded while closed under COVID-19 restrictions, but it’s now time for visitors to return and enjoy the new upgrades.
National Dinosaur Museum General Manager David Barker says the Dinosaur Garden has also been expanded and landscaped while closed under COVID-19 restrictions.
“We used the lockdown time to do all the things we had been wanting to do,” said Mr Barker. “We updated many of the displays, landscaped the Dinosaur Gardens, and invested in our exhibits,” he said.
“We’ve got an online booking system so we can offer timed sessions for restricted capacity to observe social distancing requirements, and visitors can book online for a one-hour session, or call us,” he said.
As we walk through the exhibits, one of them moves unexpectedly and lets out a dinosaur roar.
“We like to keep things as educational but as fun as possible. For example, you can stand inside the jaws of a Megalodon shark and have your photo taken, and there are other photo opportunities around the museum, but you also learn about the dinosaurs and the life that existed in the prehistoric periods,” said Mr Barker.
The Megalodon shark lived in our oceans around 20 million years ago and grew to around 18 metres long (about three times the length of a Great White Shark). The jaws on display in the Museum are impressive, but terrifying if you overthink it.
Some staff at the museum were able to claim the Jobkeeper allowance while the COVID-19 lockdown temporarily closed the museum, and the full team are not yet back at work. Current restrictions mean the museum is making about one-third of its usual turnover, but Mr Barker is hoping by next year the situation will have changed.
“We’re really lucky,” he said.
“We’ve got very supportive directors who were prepared to invest in the business while we were under lockdown. Jeno and Tom Kapitany, Martin Rowe, and Chris and Kathleen Michael bought the business in 2011 and they have been amazingly supportive of the National Dinosaur Museum team,” he said.
“We had Dan and Dan Landscapers come out and do all the landscaping in the Dinosaur Garden, and it looks great. We’ve been working with ANU students who helped us with research to determine what our visitors love, so we’ve taken on all the suggestions we can, like putting dinosaurs you can climb on in one section of the Dinosaur Garden,” he said.
“Our retail manager Erica Mavro has done a great job with restocking and adding new products to our shop, and we now have an online store as well,” said Mr Barker.
The Museum gift shop is open for customers and has a large range of prehistoric gifts, full of amazing crystals, fossils and mineral specimens, equally as fascinating to browse as the Museum exhibits. The Museum took the opportunity during lockdown to establish an online shop through Facebook, which offers a wide range of educational and entertaining products. There is no entry fee if just visiting the shop.