The Gentle Giant dinosaur exhibition at Shetland Museum and Archives opened on Saturday and was greeted with enthusiasm.
It is the first time dinosaurs have been featured and there was huge interest in them – and lots of dinosaur-themed events are planned during the exhibits’ three month loan period.
The exhibition includes the massive skull of a triceratops, cast from a real skull belonging to Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. This three-horned creature stood three metres high and 10 metres long, with sturdy rhino-like legs and a parrot-like beak for slicing fruit.
Also in the show is a model allosaurus and baby tyrannosaurus rex, both loaned from Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
Allosaurus, meaning “different lizard”, with a huge head, shortened forearms and growing up to 12 metres long, was a carnivore with serrated teeth and slashing claws.
Tyrannosaurus rex, or “terrible lizard”, was one of the largest dinosaurs, six metres tall and up to 12 metres long, with a one and a half-metre skull, and capable of eating up to 500 lbs of meat in one mouthful. Despite its fearsome reputation, the baby in the exhibition proved to be a hit with children.
A collection of fossils, including dinosaur footprints, is also on show.
Museum officials had been working since last year to secure the exhibition, which was finally agreed with the Hunterian Museum in November. Planning started in February which involved how to get the exhibits to Shetland. Sponsors Shetland Transport became involved in the logistics in May.
The unusual objects were wrapped in blankets and shrinkwrap and packed into crates for the journey.
Curator Ian Tait said: “It’s great fun, the bairns just love it. We deliberately picked something non-Shetland that [otherwise] folk would have to travel a long way to see.”
Speculating on the appeal of dinosaurs, especially to youngsters he said: “Bairns like mysterious things like outer space and big creatures like sharks and lions, but the key is that dinosaurs are safe because they are extinct. They are exciting, real and mysterious, but have been rendered gentle.”
Saturday also saw two talks on dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretacious periods and Scotland’s Jurassic past by Hunterian Museum palaeontologist Neil Clark.
Dr Clark’s daytime talk to children was fully booked, with 120 attending.
Dr Tait said museum talks were often perceived as “worthy”. This, he argued, was “just as worthy but more populist”, and added that the young audience had been “unalarmed by gore”. The evening talk for adults was also well attended.
Dr Tait thanked Shetland Transport for their “very generous support” which had made the exhibition possible.
Lifelong learning officer Yvonne Reynolds said: “There has been an amazing response from the public, with lots of families and children enjoying it [on Saturday]. In the learning room they could make triceratops headbands and get dinosaur tattoos and have their faces painted.
“We’ve got lots of school bookings for tours and workshops, we’re flat out until October. It’s hugely popular.”
There are even plans for a dinosaur disco.