Amateur paleontologists and “Jurassic Park” fans, rejoice: The dinosaur and fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History reopens to the public June 8 on the heels of a five-year, $110 million renovation. The hall will host a 31,000-square-foot exhibit called “Deep Time” that will showcase “an authentic Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton alongside more than 700 other fossil specimens, including mammals, reptiles, plants and insects,” per the Smithsonian. Some of these objects have never before been put on display at the museum.
While the exhibit covers the 3.7-billion-year history of life on Earth, it also tackles modern-day challenges like climate change and biodiversity. The Smithsonian describes the hall, a 1910 Beaux-Arts gallery refurbished by Philadelphia-based design firm EwingCole, as “a curving chronicle.” Previous renovations took place in the 1960s, 1980s, and early 2000s. This one uncovered the skylight above the hall and the exterior windows, letting in lots of natural light. Designers used special glazing to mitigate the effects of ultraviolet light and heat on the objects, decorative plasterwork was restored, and new infrastructure was added.
“Other highlights include the FossiLab where visitors can watch experts prepare fossils and the Coralyn W. Whitney Basecamp, a hands-on interactive gallery where visitors can explore the scientific process of asking questions and examining evidence,” the Smithsonian says in a release. The exhibit is officially named the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time,” in recognition of a $35 million gift from the American billionaire and conservative fundraiser.
The Natural History Museum is one of the Smithsonian’s most-visited properties, receiving approximately 5 million visitors last year, 6 million in 2017, and more than 7 million in 2016. The exhibit’s opening ceremony is set for 10:15 a.m. Saturday, with capacity for 300 visitors.