The first memory I have of exploring a dinosaur fossil exhibit must have been between the ages of 9-10. I was living in a small “no-wheres-ville” type of place along the Bay of Fundy. My mother packed us kids into the car and drove off towards (what I assume is) the Natural History Museum in Halifax. I make this assumption as the museum had undergone renovations and reorganization in 1993 and the road-trip was either the summer of 1994 or 1995. The exhibit we were on our way to see is similar to today’s Dinosaurs Alive or I suppose more specifically Dinosaurs Unearthed since it was indoors. I remember the reason that we were going was that the exhibit was not going to be there much longer, so it must have been a touring attraction. [[Not surprising, since Jurassic Park came out in 1993. Dinosaurs were a big hit with kids and I was no different. Although I was a big fan of pterosaurs thanks to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I was also a fan of triceratops thanks to The Land Before Time. I guess my interests were heavily influenced by the media that I was exposed to. Jurassic Park companion books were sold at gas stations and contained an abundance of dino facts. I still own some of these books today and share them with my son.]] The trip to the dinosaur attraction was long for a kid, nearly two hours, and it was boring. My siblings and I ran out of car games to play half way there and it was hot in the car even though we started driving in the morning, the car did not have air conditioning. I remember complaining about the drive, how my mom kept her head with multiple young ones in the car, I’ll never know. I guess she knew it would be worth it once we got there, and she wasn’t wrong.
I remember seeing animatronic dinosaurs, something that is common enough now in some museums and theme parks but I thought was the most incredible thing in the world back then. I was amazed. I was engaged. I was a little scared of the roaring even though I was pushing the buttons myself. I remember jumping a foot in the air when my older brother decided to sneakily control the dinosaurs before I approached them. I remember sitting by the discovery zone sand box and carefully brushing away the sand to reveal the fossils. I remember looking up at the enormous dinosaurs and wondering how any living thing could grow so tall. I wondered if being bigger made them slower like elephants. I guessed that their organs must be over-sized like a blue whale and maybe even bigger. I was curious how scientists knew what colour the dinosaurs skin was, if what was being dug up was fossilized bones. I didn’t understand how anyone knew what they sounded like if people weren’t around. I was a child, but I was hooked on the idea of finding a question that hadn’t been asked. (Still am I suppose.)
Unfortunately this singular experience didn’t captivate me for long. Once Roberta Bondar spoke at my Girl Guide camp, this dinosaur experience faded to the back of my mind. I spent the next 15 years thinking I could be the one to discover faster-than-light equations. Get humans out of the solar system for good. I think if I had the opportunity to listen to inspirational or pioneering female paleontologists as a kid, I may not have ever strayed from my path. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, I took the long road around, however I wouldn’t change anything for the world. My deviation brought me to where I am now. Even though I am studying paleontology a decade later than most students, I couldn’t be happier with where I am in life now.
Photos: All photos were taken at the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit at Canada’s Wonderland on June 21st, 2014.