Press Release: SUE the T. rex’s new suite

December 18, 2018 Exhibition

SUE, the world’s biggest, best-preserved, and most complete T. rex, is back on display and better than ever at the Field Museum as of Friday, December 21, 2018. SUE is now up to date with the latest scientific research and is in a new “private suite” that shows what SUE’s world was like.

“We’re excited to finally complete our decades-long plan to put SUE in a proper scientific context alongside our other dinosaurs and offer an experience that really shows off why SUE is widely considered the greatest dinosaur fossil in the world,” says Field Museum president Richard Lariviere.

SUE’s new home is within the museum’s Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, which, along with Máximo the Titanosaur and the newly reimagined Stanley Field Hall, is part of the Griffin Dinosaur Experience and was funded by the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund. The new suite is 5,100 square feet—bigger than a professional basketball court—and packed with interactive displays that show what scientists have learned about SUE over the years. A narrated light show highlights specific bones on SUE’s skeleton, revealing everything from healed broken ribs to a jaw infection that might have ultimately killed the dinosaur. “SUE’s skeleton is so complete and so well-preserved, it’s been a treasure trove for scientists. Studying it has shown us everything from how fast T. rex would have been able to run to how quickly a baby T. rex grew up,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions. “The light effects will let us point out the details that make SUE one of the world’s most important scientific finds.”

In addition to highlighting the fossils that led to these discoveries about what T. rex was like, the new suite brings those facts to life with digital animations by Atlantic Productions projected onto six 9-foot-tall screens set up behind SUE, forming a panorama. The animations show SUE hunting an Edmontosaurus, fighting a Triceratops, and even pooping. “It’s one thing for scientists to be able to figure out how an animal would have moved or hunted based on clues in its fossilized skeleton, but with these animations, we’re able to show our visitors what that would have actually looked like,” says Hoogstraten. “The animations look so real, and scientists checked every detail—if you want to know how T. rex really looked and behaved in its habitat, this is probably the best way in the world to learn.”  

Before the new gallery was built, SUE was displayed in the museum’s main Stanley Field Hall away from the other dinosaurs and with minimal signage. “When SUE was in Stanley Field Hall, a lot of people would say, ‘Aw, SUE’s smaller than I thought.’ This new gallery does a better job showing how imposing SUE would have been in real life. This is the biggest, scariest, and most impressive SUE’s ever looked,” says Lariviere.

And it’s not just the room—SUE is actually bigger than ever before, thanks to the addition of a set of bones that flummoxed scientists when the fossil was first found. “T. rex had a set of bones across its abdomen called gastralia—they’re like belly ribs, and they helped T. rex breathe,” says Pete Makovicky, the museum’s curator of dinosaurs. “When SUE was discovered, scientists didn’t know exactly how the gastralia fit onto the skeleton, so they were left off. Thanks to the research we’ve been doing on SUE for the last twenty years, we now know what they were for and where they should go.” With gastralia added on, SUE looks a lot bigger. (Please, do not body-shame our T. rex. SUE is perfect just the way they are. And, yes, “they” is correct there—scientists don’t know if SUE was male or female, so in the spirit of scientific accuracy and LGBTQ inclusivity, we’ve transitioned to singular “they/them” pronouns instead of calling SUE “she” or “her.”)

“We can’t wait to reintroduce SUE to the world,” says Hoogstraten. “SUE is the crown jewel of the Field’s collections, and now we’re finally showing them off the way they deserve.”

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

Animations produced by Atlantic Productions.