A review of Cardiff Museum’s Dinosaur Babies Exhibition 2017
The museum was easy to find (the big dinosaur claws really gave it away!) and it had really accessible parking right out the front (we arrived super early!) what a bonus. Considering this exhibition had come from London I was very happy to pay to see this, it was a reasonable price too, especially for a family ticket.
The exhibition dived right in, in my opinion putting the star of the show first but still saving the best for last! Firstly you come across lovely displayed Psittacosaurus skeleton in life position with babies! Aww so cute! This was accompanied by a similarly displayed Protoceratops and babies.
The exhibition started with Ornithiscian dinosaurs, followed by Sauropods then Theropods. A very good flow of direction, saving the kid’s favourite till the end. The one thing that really surprised me was how much you were allowed to touch, feel and handle in this exhibition. Being aimed at families, this is an important aspect for children attending museum exhibitions as they can get up close and personal with objects that are normally hidden behind glass and are usually static and boring. I think I touched everything I could get my hands on, despite my partner insisting I shouldn’t! I knew better, any museum that didn’t want someone touching it would clearly say so or the invigilators would have rugby tackled me by now! I think I only saw one don’t touch sign in the whole exhibition, WOW that’s pretty impressive.
The art work I recognise as Mexican palaeo artist Luis Rey – if you don’t know this guy’s work it’s amazing. Check out his blog too! It’s super bright, colourful, kiddy friendly and most importantly ACCURATE! Luis Rey did a few installation palaeo models for my university and worked closely with one of my lecturers. I was a bit disappointed they weren’t selling his art books in the gift shop as I have a few and they are gorgeous and would certainly spark children’s imagination.
There was the obligatory display case of ‘objects from our own museum collection’ which was OK, I dislike these display cabinets as I feel like the museums are trying to hard to make it relevant to them and what’s in their collections and try to clutch at too many straws like crocodile eggs and taxidermy birds, yes we get it they’re all remotely related. Can’t an exhibition like this get enough credit with out the curators digging out some dusty old flamingo skeleton from the basement that is a bit irrelevant? Why didn’t they put the Cardiff dinosaur on display in here, that would have been more relevant and interesting. ( I later found out after the exhibition that the Cardiff Dinosaur was across from the gift shop – it could have had an interest sign for those coming out of the exhibition? After all how many people know that a dinosaur was discovered in Wales! ) They go to all the effort of this but then can’t they be consistent with the display signs format, font, colour and size, c’mon museum people. It makes it super obvious that it’s not part of the exhibition and possibly an in house afterthought.
This exhibition was very well done and I can tell it was very hard to compromise with it as there are some things that just don’t make sense to me as a museum professional. The exhibition rooms were big and spacious but I found them very dark in places, and as someone with light sensitivity it was a bit difficult to see and read displays in places but it certainly created an atmosphere and shadows from fossil displays. Later on I find a big projection on the wall, probably why the lights are so dim… There are some absolutely lovely aspects to this exhibition like kids get to touch things but they con is they’re not real fossils. The kid’s get to see a life size T-rex but not a real one. The whole exhibition was too dark, but it just came to me that maybe it was to hide the fact that these fossils weren’t real to children? The skulls look real but the size of the adult hadrosaur skull is too small. The models are GORGEOUS but they’re old and the paint has flaked off them in places. The play area was great but massively under decorated and under utilised. I imagine why is because the when the exhibition was in London it didn’t have a play area and it was probably put together by Cardiff Museum. However I feel there are genuine reasons behind these faults as I know that London quality exhibitions dont always fully translate into another museum exhibition space so easily as one might imagine. There certainly is a lot for a families to look at and do despite these faults and I’m sure most families wouldn’t even notice them I’m just being nit picky.
I loved the fossils, i loved the models of baby dinosaurs curled up in their eggs, I loved Luis Rey’s artwork and branding of the whole exhibition of dinosaur silhouettes on wooden crates
Overall you can tell that this exhibition has been conceived by someone with a real passion for palaeontology as it displays things that are very rarely seen in the UK let alone Wales. Big articulated skeletons of dinosaurs & babies, dinosaur eggs, huge fossil beds and a T-Rex to top it off. These are not cheap or easy to find, even if they are all replicas.
The fossils they have picked don’t only follow the theme of dinosaur babies but these fossils also show children a story; how they were discovered, how they scientifically progressed palaeontology, what we know about dinosaur babies and how they changed the image of the dinosaur we view today. Luis Rey’s big bright coloured fluffy dinosaurs certainly do capture the imagination.
This exhibition shows adults and children alike what we have to learn from dinosaurs and how much there is left to be discovered by future budding palaeontologists. That is why this was a really great family friendly exhibition and I hope it continues to tour for a long time and inspire many more children along the way and I know it will because one display cabinet in particular did resonate with me. It was the one displaying the National Geographic magazine issue with the dinosaur egg on the front cover that originally got me interested in palaeontology!
We have designed our very own cute baby dinosaur in an egg plaster casts you can find them in our shop!