Jobaria was a 70-foot long giant of 135-million years ago. It’s part of an exhibit so large and complex, it forced the Montshire Museum of Science to close for five days of installation. “I think it might have been the first time in [our] history!” museum director David Goudy chuckles.The plant-eating dinosaur skeleton is a replica of bones found in Africa. In the world of science museums, dinosaurs are just about the biggest draws, so this is how the Montshire wanted to celebrate its 20th birthday at this location in Norwich.
Before the center opened in the fall of 1989, the science museum operated out of an old bowling alley in Hanover, N.H. Over two decades, the facility has seen incredible growth and support. About 150,000 people including school groups come here each year. That number is quite a feat for a rural spot in the Upper Valley.
David Goudy says his staff excels at encouraging return visits: “There aren’t enough people [living in this area] to keep a place like this busy and active, so our staff really focuses on thinking a lot about how people learn with exhibits and what energizes people.”Part of the 20th anniversary program was organized by a Chicago science group called Project Exploration. That nonprofit’s exhibits coordinator, Curt Gustafson, says the point of the collection is “To [let people] know there are dinosaurs outside of the North American dinosaurs everyone knows like Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex. All of these are from Africa and there are dinosaurs in China, South America, and places like that.”
The exhibit also gives you the chance to be a dinosaur, navigating a virtual world as either a T-rex or a triceratops. The computer program has you do everything a dinosaur did, from hunting to eating to other bodily functions.”There’s a lot here for people of all ages,” David Goudy says.Over its next 20 years, the Montshire Museum of Science hopes to create more learning opportunities on its campus outdoors. But as for this “Dinosaur Days” exhibit? It opens Thursday and runs through the start of the New Year.