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Smithsonian to Close Dinosaur Exhibit for 5 Years

The Natural History museum’s most popular attraction will reopen in 2019 with a new Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.
The skull of the Smithsonian's new T-rex. Photograph courtesy Smithsonian Institution.

The dinosaurs are going away again, but this time it’s not because of an asteroid strike. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History announced that its dinosaur hall—one of the marquee attractions at the world’s second-most-visited museum—will close through 2019 as it undergoes a massive renovation.

The 31,000-square-foot exhibit will close April 28, taking away from public view most of the museum’s fossil collections. A smaller, temporary exhibit, “The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World,” will open to showcase a selection of artifacts from the Cretaceous period.

When the main dinosaur exhibit reopens, its centerpiece will be a near-complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton unearthed in Montana in 1988. The T-rex will be delivered to the Smithsonian in April. (It was originally supposed to be shipped last October, but then the government shut down.) A metal cast of the T-rex’s skull went on display in the musuem’s lobby this week.

The dinosaur hall’s renovation will take five years because many of its displays, including the 90-foot Diplodocus that currently anchors the exhibit, will need to be disassembled. The project will cost $48 million, of which $35 million is coming from the billionaire industrialist David Koch, who is so wealthy he probably could build a real-life Jurassic Park instead.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.