35-foot pterosaurs and hanging gardens to join new titanosaur at The Field Museum

In the spring of 2018, The Field Museum will unveil a cast of the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The 122-foot-long titanosaur will take up a third of the Museum’s main Stanley Field Hall, with its head peeking over the 28-foot balcony to the second floor. And while SUE the T. rex will be moving from the hall to their own new gallery, the titanosaur won’t be lonely—it’ll be joined by life-size, detailed replicas of giant flying reptiles, as well as state-of-the-art hanging gardens. These additions mark the beginning of a transformation of the iconic hall for the Museum’s 125th anniversary this year.

“Our goal as an institution is to offer visitors the best possible dinosaur experiences, and we want that to start right when visitors first enter Stanley Field Hall,” says Field Museum president Richard Lariviere. “The new hanging gardens and the flock of pterosaurs will take our visitors back to the age of the dinosaurs and will complement the new titanosaur.”

The gardens, pterosaurs, titanosaur, and renovations to SUE are all made possible by Citadel CEO Kenneth C. Griffin’s generous gift of $16.5 million, and are just the beginning of groundbreaking changes coming to the Museum in its 125th year.

The flock of pterosaurs (which are flying reptiles, not dinosaurs, thank you very much) will give visitors a lifelike look at the animals that shared the planet with the dinosaurs. They’ll also serve as a wayfinding tool from Stanley Field Hall up to the rest of the dinos (and SUE’s new home) in the permanent exhibition The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.

“The pterosaurs are nothing short of amazing,” says Senior Exhibitions Project Manager Hilary Hansen. “Since Stanley Field Hall is such a massive room, we had the opportunity to add a titanosaur and an entire flock of pterosaurs. It’ll really transform the space.”

“We worked closely with the company that built them, Blue Rhino, to make sure that the pterosaurs were scientifically accurate,” says Bill Simpson, the head of geological collections. “They look wonderful. They’re really colorful and will capture people’s imaginations.”

The pterosaur replicas include nine hawk-sized Rhamphorhynchus (ram-foh-RINK-us), two Pteranodon (teh-RAN-oh-don) with 18-foot-wingspans, and two giant Quetzalcoatlus (ket-zal-co-AHT-lus), whose spread wings stretch 35 feet. For context, 35 feet is about the length of a bus. It’s also about the length of SUE the T. rex, who will be undergoing scientific updates before their reveal in their new gallery by the Museum’s other dinos in spring 2019. (Read: don’t worry, SUE won’t be gone for long, and when you see them next year, they’ll be even bigger, in keeping with the latest T. rex research.)

In addition to the pterosaurs, Stanley Field Hall will also be home to new state-of-the-art hanging gardens. The gardens, which will be made of 3D-printed plastic and were co-designed by architect Daniel Pouzet and Field Museum Design Director Àlvaro Amat, will contain over 1,000 live plants, as well as additional lighting for the space. The four garden structures, the largest of which is 35 feet across, will be suspended from the hall’s ceiling and can be lowered to the ground during special events. The plants themselves will be hydroponic, growing in inert volcanic rock and receiving water and fertilizer from the ceiling.

“These gardens are the first of their kind, and we worked to find plants that will thrive and were inspired by plants living during the time of the dinosaurs: ferns, cycads, and arum plants,” says Hansen. “The plants make the hall come alive-- they look beautiful and underscore our mission to study and preserve the natural world. They’ll break up the imposing scale of Stanley Field Hall and soften its hard materials, making it a welcoming place to sit and enjoy nature.”

SUE’s month-long de-installation and the start of their renovation and move upstairs will begin on February 4, and the gardens, pterosaurs, and titanosaur will start going up soon after, with final installation anticipated in late May. Press will be kept posted about the installation process—the largest pterosaur is so big that it’ll need to be brought in through the front doors of the Museum. Media will be invited to see that.

The Griffin Dinosaur Experience, made possible by generous support from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund, includes a special traveling exhibition, Antarctic Dinosaurs; the Titanosaur;  updates to SUE and the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet; and new dinosaur education programs.