SUE the T. rex has some pretty die-hard fans. When the Field Museum tweeted out that the beloved dinosaur would be moving to a new home within the museum—Alison Laurence immediately bought a plane ticket to Chicago.
She didn’t want to miss the first day of SUE the T. rex’s month-long moving process at the Field Museum on Monday afternoon. Alison, from Evanston but living in Cambridge, Mass., was excited to see researchers take apart SUE because it happens to be directly related to her field of study. She’s working on her PhD at MIT focusing on how extinct animals are displayed in museums and institutions.
“I grew up with SUE,” she said. “Now, this is what I write about in a historical context. So it was really cool to be able to witness, maybe not the putting up, but the taking down of a dinosaur and to see the work that goes into pulling these bones apart.”
She was there with her father, Daniel, who was celebrating his 70th birthday and outfitted in a truly amazing “Game of Bones” t-shirt. Daniel’s mother was a historian and docent at the museum, so he spent quite a bit of time exploring the exhibits, and as a child Alison did the same.
Throughout the afternoon, Alison and Daniel took a ton of pictures and excitedly watched as researchers carefully moved, tagged and stored the foot bones.
“It’s been here since 2000 and is the most complete T. rex ever found,” said Daniel. “SUE is an institution.”
Both are excited to see what comes next this spring—a 122-foot, plant loving model of a titanosaur species. The new dinosaur will be so large its head will reach the second floor, and unlike SUE, visitors will be able to walk under and touch the skeleton.
For now, the museum will focus on cataloging all 237 parts of SUE throughout the next month. When SUE returns in spring 2019, they’ll have a new home in the Evolving Planet exhibition and a few scientific upgrades.
If you didn’t get a chance to nerd out like Alison and Daniel, the photos below show museum workers slowly removing each fossil from its metal carriers. The heaviest fossils were placed on top of stuffed trash bags to ensure a gentle transport. After all the bones were removed in the feet, a process that took just about two hours, they were catalogued and stored in foam-lined wooden drawers.