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$8.4M ‘Sue the T. rex’ skeleton invades Royal B.C. Museum in pending new dino exhibit

Exhibit on its way later this year will focus on dinosaur discoveries from around the province
A bone in the office of Victoria Arbour at the Royal B.C. Museum. (Ella Matte, Black Press Media)

New dinosaur exhibits will be taking over the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria.

One of those exhibits is “Sue the T. rex” from the Field Museum in Chicago, which will be shown in conjunction with a new in-house exhibit exploring the dinosaurs of British Columbia.

Victoria Arbour at the Royal B.C. Museum is the palaeontologist behind the planning.

“Sue is a really special specimen of T. rex,” Arbour said. “It is one of the most complete tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever. It’s really beautifully preserved – almost all of it is there. From the skull down to the tip of the tail.”

Sue was found in the late 1980s and the skeleton was prepared out of the rock in the ’90s and early ’00s. This travelling attraction has in Arbour’s words, “some new ideas about Sue’s body shape and proportions.”

Many had recognized Sue to be the largest living creature ever. That title might be taken from the feisty female creature after the Canadian contender “Scottie from Saskatchewan” stepped onto the scene.

The Field Museum got its hands on the skeleton structure in an expensive way. After Susan Hendrickson made her landmark discovery, Sue was desired by three parties. The five-year custody battle ended in a public auction in 1997. The Field Museum paid $8.4 million – the most ever paid for a skeleton at an auction.

Locally, the museum is highlighting dinosaur discoveries across the province.

“We don’t typically think of British Columbia to be a place with a ton of dinosaur fossils,” Arbour said. “Although we don’t have as many dinosaurs here as in Alberta, we actually do have some really interesting ones. We have an ever-growing number of dinosaurs fossils. We have a new species here at the Royal B.C. Museum nicknamed ‘Buster’ and a really great story of the research I’m doing here, looking for new dinosaur fossil sites in the northern part of the province.”

She, along with the other fossil finders, “usually drive up there in the summer, helicopter there for an hour, then hike around on these high alpine platforms and find some dinosaurs.”

While Alberta has the most fossils in Canada and is one of the largest fossil banks worldwide, British Columbia has several fossils from all three major dinosaur periods. These include the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, unlike Alberta only having fossils from the Cretaceous period.

RBCM has not finalized a date for “Sue the T. rex” but anticipates a June arrival.

— Ella Matte, contributor

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