“Dinosaurs Revealed”: Dino-mite Union Station exhibit educates public about prehistoric past

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Spinosaurus. Photo courtesy of ★Kumiko★.

If it seems to you that no one can seem to agree on anything these days, dinosaurs are the exception. It is simply an objective fact that dinosaurs are ridiculously awesome. They are gigantic, even more so than things we already think are gigantic – like cars and houses. Some of them were dangerous, but they’re all dead now, so it’s cool and quirky for people to make memes or put them on t-shirts.

If you have $18, some time to kill and pride small enough to spend an hour around a lot of 5-year-olds, then head to Union Station’s latest attraction, “Dinosaurs Revealed: Journey Across America.” The interactive experience features 26 lifelike animatronic dinosaurs as well as real artifacts, including several complete skeletons.

Dinosaurs may be extinct, but public enthusiasm for them isn’t. “Dinosaurs Revealed” had its world premiere June 30, 2018 and almost immediately broke attendance records.  Over 130,000 people from all fifty states and seven countries have flocked to Union Station for their fix of dinosaurs. Demand was so high that officials decided to extend the exhibit, which was slated to close Jan. 6, until March 24. Adult tickets are $17.95 on the weekends and $15 during the week.

“Dinosaurs Revealed” opens with the 100,000 year-old bones of a juvenile mammoth named Chewy. A short video gives context for the main exhibit and background on how dinosaurs developed and what the world looked like when they walked the earth.

The exhibit is separated into three sections representing the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods – each featuring fossils and replicas from that particular era.

The animatronics are creepily realistic and surrounded by historically accurate vegetation. They are true to size – with some spanning the entire room, move when approached and even roar. Most dinosaurs have detailed scales or feathers, and they all somehow appear to blink and breathe.

If you find robots unappealing, spend some time staring at the remains of dead dinosaur bodies some cool people dug out of the ground. “Dinosaurs Revealed” features an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, plus Utahraptor and Triceratops skeletons. Visitors even have the option of touching a portion of the bones on display.

For sensory learners, “Dinosaurs Revealed” offers a number of interactive experiences. Play with sand at the 3D volcano table, which uses live topography to show how lava would flow down your constructed mountain. There is an expert on site to answer questions and talk in greater detail about artifacts.

“Dinosaurs Revealed” is unique because it’s tailored to the Kansas City locale. Most Union Station experiences are traveling exhibits, but station officials decided to curate their own for the first time after being unsatisfied with existing touring shows.

Many of the fossils are on loan from University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Department of Geosciences. The remaining fossils come from private collectors, including a married couple that call themselves amateur paleontologists.

“Dinosaurs Revealed” replaced the LEGO exhibit “Art of the Brick,” but Union Station has a history of many other successful educational displays. In 2016, Union Station featured a collection of artifacts recovered from Pompeii – an entire city preserved by volcanic ash in 79 A.D. The items, along with plaster casts of real people, gave viewers an intimate view into the life of a wealthy family at the time of Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption.

As a train station, Union Station might not seem like the obvious location for these exhibits, but it has reorientated toward public learning since reopening after a renovation in 1999. Anyone who grew up remotely near Kansas City probably remembers visiting the Science City permanent exhibition on a field trip or with their family. The station’s mission statement says “Union Station Kansas City is dedicated to science education, celebration of community and preservation of history.”

Union Station’s exhibits are generally a reliable source for interesting experiences. “Dinosaurs Revealed” gives its visitors a glimpse into a very different past, where these reptiles dominated the planet for millions of years.

The modern world moves quickly and we rarely get the chance to contemplate how crazy the world used to be. Millions of years before humans showed up, giant reptiles roamed the same places where we build things like train stations and Starbucks. Even though I consider “Dinosaurs Revealed” a bit overpriced for a relatively short encounter, I recommend attending the exhibit purely for its insane atmosphere.

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