Dinosaur Interpretation for a Non-specialist Audience: World Museum, Liverpool.

At the beginning of December I was lucky enough to visit Liverpool (for the first time) in order to attend the Geology Curators Group seminar called “Dinosaur Interpretation for a Non-specialist Audience”. This was held at the World Museum.

The event started with an introduction from Dr Steve Judd, director of the World museum. We were then treated to a talk from Alan Bowden about the palaeoecology of the local triassic landscape, detailing important finds in the area.

This was interrupted by a disconcerting thrashing of the emergency exit doors from which a huge dinosaur puppet emerged and proceeded to terrorise the audience. It was clearly a puppet (obviously) but intimidating none the less. See the video below to get an idea of the amazing work done by Scott Wright and his team at Erth Visual and Physical in Sidney, Australia. They have produced puppets for museums all around the world. Have a look:

After the initial presentations, it was our opportunity to look around at the dinosaur exhibits as well as the rest of the museum (and grab a bite to eat).  I spent most of the time watching the puppet traumatise young children.

After lunch, Steve McLean (from Tyne and Wear Museum Service) discussed the recent renovation of the Great North Museum, specifically about what a strategically placed T. Rex can do for the museum in terms of visitors and promotional opportunities.

Then Tim Didjer, project manager of last year’s Planet Dinosaur programme, gave a talk about how the show was made, from the ideas at the very beginning, through to the technology used, as well as problems encountered along the way. I hadn’t enjoyed the programme as much as I had hoped I would but I must admit that once Tim had put a lot of my doubts into context, I felt much less critical about it. It was a great presentation and provided a fantastic insight into the production of such a cutting edge documentary.

One of the talks I was most looking forward to was Paul Barrett’s, of the Natural History Museum. He spent time discussing his research and how that informs things like The Age of the Dinosaur exhibit which is now touring the country after being the NHM’s blockbuster summer exhibition in 2011.

The next talk was from Professor Mike Benton from Bristol University who discussed The Bristol Dinosaur Project. It was an interesting approach to combining research with outreach. You can read all about it here.

The final talk I was able to hear was from Dr. John Hutchison (University of London) and Mark Kirby (Eureka Exhibits, USA).  It was about Be The Dinosaur: a computer-driven dinosaur simulator, using a video game set up to educate people about dinosaur behaviour and biology by using clues and information around an exhibit to inform their actions in the game.

There was another talk as well as evening and weekend activities based on dinosaurs taking place at the World Museum. Unfortunately I had to catch my train and return to work the next day but I had a fantastic time learning about ways of using dinosaurs to engage with visitors as well as hearing the case studies from those that have used some of these methods.

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