It occurred to me recently that I’ve placed so much focus on shining a spotlight on the smaller museums that surround the DFW metroplex that I’ve completely neglected the “Big Two”: that is to say, the big museums in Dallas & Fort Worth, respectively. I decided to rectify that, and so I finally got around to visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in the last few weeks of summer! For those of you who may have attended the 2015 SVP meeting in Dallas, the museum received a significant renovation not long after I moved into the area the following year, so you may not be familiar with its new look!
A couple relics of the older iteration of the museum still stand outside, just around the corner from each other: Acrocanthosaurus & Tenontosaurus, looking a little weathered, but still just as cool as ever. Fun fact, Tenontosaurus is actually the most abundant dinosaur genus known from Texas by material discovered, though I don’t have exact figures.
Upon entry, visitors are immediately greeted by the enormous Paluxysaurus, the state dinosaur of Texas (as reported by The 50 State Fossils), and the likely culprit behind the sauropod tracks found in the Paluxy River bed at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Parts of this skeleton (which you can see in the header image for this post) are speculative, however, and some have suggested it may in fact by synonymous with Sauroposeidon, though I’ll leave that discussion to the experts for now.
As the name suggests, this does happen to be a museum of both Science and History as opposed to a strict natural history museum, and one must travel past several other types of exhibits and hands-on activities to get to the main fossil hall. I might have kept walking had I been by myself, but my boys and I did have fun in these areas together all the same.
The main fossil area felt somewhat smaller than I expected, but there are some cool dinosaur remains on display, most of them Texas natives. A Tenontosaurus skeletal mount greets visitors in the entryway, while (non-natives) Allosaurus & Camptosaurus take center stage with a crowd-pleasing fight to the death.
The walls are lined with fossil specimens presented more or less as they were taken from the ground, with their fragmentary but informative natures on display. My interest was particularly captured by two ankylosaur specimens: the lone skull of the Texan nodosaur Pawpawsaurus, and a partial skeleton of a juvenile nodosaur of uncertain affinity! I hadn’t heard of many juvenile ankylosaurs before, so this unexpected treat was certainly a welcome surprise!
My kids got sucked into some interactive screens that let them color dinosaurs in various clever ways, but all too soon they were telling me I was taking too long, so we moved on. There’s an energy/geosciences hall near the fossil hall that looks like it largely focuses on the energy industry (which makes sense for a Texas museum), but while my kids had fun looking at a model railroad that features various means of energy production, they dragged me away before I could see the rest of this particular hall. I did catch a glimpse of an interesting looking theater whose waiting room had a very nice recreation of a Paleozoic reef, with crinoids and other such sessile critters, but I kept missing the scheduled showings of whatever presentation was actually inside, so I never found out what exactly it was all about.
The rush was partially made up for by one of the coolest dig pits I’ve ever seen at a museum. Far from the typical raised specimen container box most of these things are contained in, this was an expansive, outdoor activity area, with multiple dig sites, placed in very convincing in-situ contexts. A few explanatory plaques seemed damaged, but I was very impressed with the overall presentation nevertheless.
We made the planetarium above the Paluxysaurus skeleton our last exhibit for the day, much to youngest son’s delight, but while we were waiting, we discovered a nearby wing dedicated to local history, especially that of cowboys. I bring this up mostly because of the amusing cow portraits we found there, which moved and talked to passersby, much like Harry Potter portraits, or more to the point of this blog, the scientist portraits at the ICR Discovery Center.
I definitely enjoyed Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. I could have used a bit more fossil content, particularly of the Paleozoic and Cenozoic persuasion, but the available material was interesting enough in its own right. I definitely plan on visiting again soon, especially if they get any interesting traveling exhibits. I recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the area; it’s certainly worth checking out!