Press Release: Smell SUE the T. rex’s breath—and more—with new multisensory stations

October 1, 2019 Exhibition

Experience SUE the T. rex like never before with new multisensory additions to the iconic dinosaur’s suite in the Field Museum’s  Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet exhibition. T. rex enthusiasts will be able to take a whiff of SUE’s putrid breath, watch the fearsome dinosaur tromp through the Late Cretaceous forest, hear their subsonic rumble, and feel the texture of a T. rex’s skin.

“We’re excited to get visitors closer than ever to feeling like SUE is there and alive in the room with them, using their senses to answer questions about the T. rex’s life,” says Meredith Whitfield, Exhibition Developer at the Field. 

Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with SUE, the most complete T. rex ever discovered, thanks to these scientifically vetted sensory stations.

Whether they’re taking in the sweet scent of the Cretaceous forest or wincing at SUE’s post-meal stench, visitors can delight in the research behind these prehistoric odors. To figure out what the Cretaceous forest smelled like, for instance, the Field’s own collections manager of paleobotany Az Klymiuk analyzed fossils found at or near SUE’s dig site, finding modern-day analogues. From there, our exhibitions team worked with the Chicago Botanic Gardens to fine-tune the scented oils featured in the smell station. The scent for SUE’s breath, meanwhile, takes into account that the T. rex’s serrated, banana-shaped teeth would hold onto flesh and cause an unpleasant odor.

For the station showcasing SUE’s subsonic rumble, research suggests T. rex noises sounded most similar to a crocodile rattle or a bittern, a type of bird. The interactive station’s design involved taking recordings of these noises and scaling the pitch to a body of SUE’s size. Visitors will not only be able to hear the deep rumbly tones but also feel them as well, thanks to bone conduction technology that lets visitors touch hotspots on a platform. This makes SUE’s world more accessible for those who may have hearing impairments.

The T. rex skin was designed by fabricators from the Black Hills Institute with help from our own paleontologists, and it’ll be featured alongside skins of fellow Cretaceous creatures Triceratops and Didelphodon (an early mammal relative). Whether T. rex had feathers or didn’t is still up for debate, but now you’ll be able to pet one.

“Beyond the fun of getting up close and personal with the world’s most complete T. rex, the new sensory stations in SUE’s suite give visitors an insight into the science we do and the fascinating questions it can answer about what the planet was like 67 million years ago,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, the Field’s Director of Exhibitions.

The new multisensory additions to SUE’s suite in Evolving Planet are part of the Griffin Dinosaur Experience. Unveiled in 2018, the Griffin Dinosaur Experience, made possible by the generous support of the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund, includes updates to SUE the T. rex and the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, Máximo the Titanosaur, and new dinosaur education programs.