Home Art/Culture Jurassic Park comes to life in the centre of Berlin

Jurassic Park comes to life in the centre of Berlin

By Ulrike von Leszczynski, DPA

Berlin : You would be forgiven for thinking you should make a run for it when the giant reptile suddenly appears from around the corner.

It's so realistic that it could be your leg that the six-metre-long dinosaur ends up chewing with relish.

What sounds like a scene from the adventure film Jurassic Park can be seen in a computer animation at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin from Friday.

It is part of a new exhibition entitled Evolution in Action that the museum presents in four display halls renovated over the past two years at a cost of 18 million euros ($24 million).

At the heart of the display is the 13-metre-high and 15-metre-long Brachiosaurus, the tallest dinosaur ever mounted in a museum.

Five skeletons from the museum's collection of 150-million-year-old dinosaurs from Mount Tendaguru in Tanzania will be on display, along with fossil plants and animals that lived in East Africa at the same time.

Advances in computer-generated graphics make the long-dead animals come alive again and take visitors on a trip to the beginnings of our solar system.

The new exhibits combine original objects and new multimedia technology in a presentation full of creative ideas, which make the displays highly attractive for visitors of all ages.

At the same time, the exhibition is designed to help improve the understanding of science by acting as an interface between scientific research and the general public.

The dinosaur skeletons, discovered by German researchers in Tanzania 100 years ago, had to be dismantled and conserved while restoration work in the 120-year-old museum was carried out.

Every piece, from toe to teeth, was covered in a protective layer and reassembled in new steel corsets. A crane was needed to rebuild the Brachiosaurus – a process that took several weeks.

Its head is one metre higher than it was before, after the latest scientific research indicated the correct position. The colossus is also more upright and appears to be running when seen through the light of the hall's glass-domed roof.

Positioned close to the skeletons are binoculars or Jurascopes, as museum director Reinhold Leinfelder calls them – a reference to the Jurassic Period of geological time 208,146 million years ago.

Looking through the Jurascopes enables visitors to see the Tendaguru world as if they had actually been there 150 million years ago.

Animated films show the dinosaurs – in the flesh as it were – smacking their lips and letting out loud roars as they trample through the prehistoric landscape.

It is all quite revolutionary for a museum that belongs to Berlin's venerable Humboldt University and with 30 million artefacts is considered a major research centre.

The Jurascope is an imaginative compromise. The Berlin experts don't know what colours the dinosaurs were and what their roars sounded like exactly.

But most of the animation is based on the latest research data that gives it the feel of a scientific Jurassic Park, according to one of the scientists involved in the project.

Another highlight is a specimen of Archaeopteryx – a prehistoric bird that did not live at Tendaguru, but was around at the same time as the dinosaurs from that location.

The original Archaeopteryx slab, referred to by exhibition organizer Ferdinand Damaschun as "my Mona Lisa", will be on display.

At the end of their museum tour, visitors can relax on a couch in the renovated stairwell and watch a 3-D film about the origin of our planet.

"We've got a lot more to offer than dinosaurs," says director Leinfelder.