Monthly Archives: July 2015

I saw Jurassic World

With the release of Jurassic World there were a plethora of reviews about the scientific accuracy of the dinosaurs. Palaeontologists on Twitter and Facebook wrote blog posts about how none of the dinosaurs had feathers, and how the big screen movie folk are ignoring the cool science. Rightly so too. Wonderful dinosaur fossils have been found with feathers and fuzz beautifully preserved. And more are turning up each year. The dinosaurs were truly a magnificent group of animals. And still are: you can see avian dinosaurs eating on your bird table.

However, I don’t read reviews before seeing a film because I like to know as little as possible before seeing it to keep the excitement, suspense and thrill that a film is supposed to be for. I don’t like spoilers – if I inadvertently see one, I end up watching the film waiting to spot the spoiler, and that spoils the film for me.  And as a person who doesn’t feel too comfortable sat in a cinema jam packed with other people, I waited a little bit to see Jurassic World.

And it was bloody awesome.

We all know that the ‘Velociraptors’ are not real Velociraptors and are most likely Deinonychus (Velociraptor is an easier name to pronounce, and shortening it to ‘raptors’ sounds pretty cool). We know that the majority of the dinosaurs in all four films are actually from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago) and not from the Jurassic Period (200-145 million years ago). (Cretaceous Park doesn’t have the same ring to it.) From the very first Jurassic Park film way back in 1993, we know mosquitoes preserved in amber do not preserve dinosaur DNA (let alone Mosasaur DNA!). And, yes, we all know that many avian dinosaurs, and even some non-avian, such as Sinosauropterxy, sported fuzzy downs and colourful feathers.

A gorgeous fossil of microraptor (Image D. Hone, from here)

A gorgeous fossil of Microraptor gui. This beautiful fossil also has feathers preserved. (Image D. Hone, from here)

Do these factual inaccuracies actually matter?

I don’t think so.

Jurassic World is not a documentary. It is a film. And actually it is probably best described as a monster movie, with some dinosaur-like monsters. (Actually, the Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, and the Apatosaurus were pretty cool dinosaurs, and very realistic). I don’t think it really matters that the Velociraptors’ didn’t have feathers, or they made up a completely new dinosaur. And here’s why, with a little help from a recent visit to a local theme park.

A few weeks ago I went on a ride called Dino Jeeps. Here, in a blatant rip off from Jurassic Park (even down to their logos), the visitors would sit in a jeep that automatically drove round through ‘jungles’ and model dinosaurs for around 67 seconds before ending at the beginning again. A very quick ride into the past.

Dino Jeeps. The only ride where you sit for 67 seconds, and

Dino Jeeps. The only ride where you sit for 67 seconds, and take a tour of some of the most wonderfully bad dinosaur models ever built. Notice the little logo on the back of the jeep? Looks familiar.

Should it matter that there were two Smilodon skulls on this trip, or that there was an ammonite just laying around in the middle of the forest? I guess it should, but in reality, my little 4 and a half year old loved the dinosaur models (which must have been made in the 1960s). We wrode the Dino Jeep three times. When we got home, full of excitement, we sat down and read one of his many dinosaur encyclopaedias, which had feathered dinosaurs and more realistic poses. We spent a good hour going through the book and talking about the dinosaurs, where they lived and what they ate.

My little 4 and 1/2 year old loving the giant Utaraptor, and doing a pretty good Chris Pratt impression (after copying his daddy!).

My little 4 and 1/2 year old loving the giant Utaraptor, and doing a pretty good Chris Pratt impression at taming the raptor.

The point being that it really doesn’t matter that the dinosaurs on Dino Jeeps (or in Jurassic World) were not exactly accurate. Children (and adults) having watched any Jurassic Park film and wanting to know more about dinosaurs will look up more information when they get home. They will do an internet search on Velociraptor and learn that they were about the size of chickens covered with feathers. They will find out that Tyrannosaurus rex was from the Cretaceous, not the Jurassic.  The truth is, these films inspire the audience to find out more, and in some cases may inspire future palaeontologists.

I always envy reading Stephen Jay Gould reminiscing about how that trip to the museum to see the dinosaur fossil inspired him to work in palaeontology. Or the great Brian Seitek who spent his childhood visiting museums many, many times, feeding his love for these ancient reptiles, inspiring him to write extremely successfully about them for a living (not to mention his fabulous book My Beloved Brontosaurus).

For little old me, there were no trips to museums. But there were monster movies. I remember vividly the first monster movie I ever saw, The Land That Time Forgot. I was 8 years old and transfixed. Everything else faded away as dinosaurs, pterosaurs and Neanderthals took me to another world. What an incredible film, and this one film inspired my love of prehistoric animals. The dinosaurs were awful. You could see the string on the pterosaur. But it didn’t matter. After watching that film, I sought out books about dinosaurs, books aabout ancient humans and animals around their time and collected toys. I was hooked. A new and incredible world was opened up to me. I watched more; King KongOne Million Years BC, The Valley of Gwangi and more … each one adding to my fascination with these incredible creatures. And now I work in a museum. Not with dinosaurs, alas. But with Woolly Mammoths, Woolly Rhinoceros, Cave Bears, Hyenas and other cool Pleistocene beasts worthy of their own Hollywood Blockbuster.

Jurassic World had excitment, some suspense, a small amount of wit, a very cool baddy creature, even cooler goody creatures and a few nods to the very first Jurassic Park film. As a documentary, it was rubbish. As a film it was brilliant! And no doubt it will inspire many to buy toys, and do a little extra reading when they get home. The film may not be scientificlly true, but it will get people talking about dinosaurs. Not only dinosaurs, but pterosaurs, marine reptiles, genetics, ethics, and the possibilities of science.

I saw Jurassic World. And it really was awesome!


Filed under Jurassic World

Museum Twitterati

Twitter is a wonderful virtual world. It allows us follow our colleagues from all over the world and keep up to date with what they are up to. We are able to interact, make new contacts, and even develop new projects all over invisible connections bouncing up and down and around the planet. Many of the people on Twitter I have never met in real life but seeing what they are up to, and chatting about Clan of the Cave Bear or this fossil, it is like you really do know them.

For some of us in the museum world, we may meet once a year at an annual conference. For many others, Twitter is what keeps us together. We can quickly tag someone in a tweet who may be able to help, or may be interested, and the contact is instantaneous. We can even build up links with people outside of our main fields of expertise. There is a wonderful museum community on Twitter. And it is growing.

What a wonderful world we live in today.

I was very honoured to be nomiated along with 4 other wonderful museum folk, for #TwitteratiChallenge by Katie Hobbs in Brighton. (This is a few weeks late, and I can only blame it on sinusitis, which was a real headache.) #TwitteratiChallenge has been slightly re-jigged to #MuseumTwitterati and the aim is to nominate 5 people in museum folk who then nomiate 5 more, and so on. The hashtag is pretty cool, because it highlights more people in that field who you can follow.

It is actually pretty difficult to nomiate people for this. I interact daily with many museum curators, with a number of regulars who are friends. Knowing many UK museum curators myself, and knowing that many UK curators know many UK curators, I am nominating five American museum curators. Some you may know, some maybe not. But they are worth following, because of the interesting things they get up to, and they are awesome!

Here are my nomiated Museum folk for #MuseumTwitterati.

– Julia (I dont know your surname!!) (@Julesinspace) is curently finishing her PhD in biological anthropology, whilst also working in museum education. Plus she also does a pretty cool blog on how to create bird study skins 🙂

– Roger Arnold (@roger_arnold) works at the Newark Museum with the arts of global Africa.

– Bailee DesRocher (@Museum_Monster) is a development coordinator, science educator, volunteer fossil preparator at the Natural History Museum of LA County. Bailee does some wonderful illustrations too!

– Andrew Farke (@AndyFarke) works at the Alf Museum, California,and carried out research with dinosaur fossils! He also does his own home brewing!

– Carrie Eaton (@carrieeaton) is a curator at the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum and tweets about her fantastic collections!


  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life (ex-colleagues are fine, it’s a small sector and we’d run out of people in no time otherwise).
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge or #MuseumTwitterati (sorry Jan Freedman)
  3. Copy and paste the ‘Rules’ and ‘What to do’ information into your own blog post and be sure to cite @TeacherToolkit since they came up with the idea.

What to do:

  1. Within 7 days of being nominated you must write your own blogpost identifying the top-5 museologists that you regularly go to for ideas, support and challenge. Share this on Twitter using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati and tag them in – they are thus nominated.
  2. If you do not have your own blog, write your list by hand or on a computer, take a photo/screenshot and upload it to Twitter, tagging the people mentioned (yes, you can do that) and using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati – they are thus nominated.


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