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Newest Theories About T. Rex On Display At Peoria Riverfront Museum Exhibition

The tyrannosaurus skeleton from the American Natural History Museum was nicknamed "Rexi" for their appearance in the 2006 film "Night at the Museum."
Valerie Vasconez
The tyrannosaurus skeleton from the American Natural History Museum was nicknamed "Rexi" for its appearance in the 2006 film "Night at the Museum."

In its first stop outside of New York, the Peoria Riverfront Museum has opened its newest exhibit, “T. Rex: the Ultimate Predator” to the public, displaying the latest findings and discoveries about the tyrannosaurus to central Illinois.

“T. Rex: the Ultimate Predator," which opened Saturday, includes models of one of the most completed skeletons that's in a New York museum. Along with skeletal structures are what scientists believe to be the most accurate depiction of the dinosaur throughout its years as a baby to adulthood.

“We are presenting the most recent versions as we understand them today,” said Bill Conger, chief curator of the Riverfront Museum. “It's (a) completely updated and completely comprehensive view of the tyrannosaur.”

Aki Wantanabe, resident research associate of the American Museum of Natural History, joined virtually a news conference held May 27. He said scientists’ fascination with the dinosaur is that they’ve discovered something new almost every week.

“There's a lot that the fossils of a T. rex can give us and the information about how it lived,” Wantanabe said. “It really fills in those knowledge gaps we had about how these creatures lived over 65-66 million years ago.”

Some of the newest theories are that the dinosaur had feathers. Wantanabe said that modern birds descended from prehistoric creatures.

The updated lifesize display shows that theory, said Cathie Neumiller, VP of marketing and communication for the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“I’m not going to give too much away, but she is an amazing looking chicken-cousin with chicken skin and feathers,” Neumiller said.

President and CEO of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, John Morris, had seen the exhibit on opening day in New York. Morris talked with President Ellen V. Fudder and Jennifer Chow, director of global business development of the American Museum of Natural History, to see if Peoria could be a potential stop on its first tour.

At the news conference, Morris said the Riverfront being the debut out of New York is much like a blockbuster experience and has shown interest in the contents of the exhibit.

“It’s hard not to like that little baby T. rex — that's the first time I’ve ever seen a baby T. rex — it’s based on fossilized evidence that they have matched,” Morris said.

The exhibition includes multimedia aspects that can be interactive for guests.

On one wall is a projection of a T. rex mother and her children that guests can interact with using hand movements. In front of the skeleton is a shadow display of dinosaur bones fighting and a “roar mixer” that allows modern cousins of the dinosaur to manipulate vocals to see what they might have sounded.

“This show is going to activate a lot of young minds, but also the minds of adults as well,” Conger said. “Evolution is an interesting thing and the evolution of these creatures are also an interesting thing.”

The exhibit will be at the Peoria Riverfront Museum until Sept. 6.

Valerie Vasconez is a student reporter at WCBU. She joined WCBU in summer 2021. She is a student at Bradley University in Peoria.