“Peck’s Rex” Tyrannosaurus rex jaw replicas that will greet visitors at the entrance to the future “Twilight of the Dinosaur Age” exhibit.

Exhibit proposals

The Eastern Iowa Paleontology Project (EIPP) plans to put “Laura the Kid Dinosaur” on public display in Eastern Iowa as the foundation for the future world-class paleontology exhibit “Twilight of the Dinosaur Age” (detailed proposal below).  Also, other items from Don Johnson’s private paleontology collection would become part of this and other planned exhibits.  These exhibits might be part of an existing museum or science center in Eastern Iowa, or part of a new museum effort.




=      “Twilight of the Dinosaur Age.” [Featuring “Laura the JUVENILE Duck-billed Dinosaur” as a “Dinosaur Under Construction” panel mount – ”Iowa’s Celebrity Dinosaur” is a kid dinosaur!  Also featuring Peck’s Tyrannosaurus rex as a panel mount!  FOSSIL PREP LAB where the bones of “Laura the Kid Dinosaur” are prepared.]


=      “Mammals from a Lost World.” [Oligocene fossil mammals.]


=      “Chewing Up the Ice Age!” [Examines teeth of Ice Age mammals.]


=      “The Birds Are Modern Dinosaurs?” [A focus on feathered dinosaurs and the evolution of flight in birds; comparative anatomy of birds and other theropods.]


=      “Become a Dinosaur Detective.” [Identification of vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant fossils from the Hell Creek Formation.]


=      “Fossil Hunting Out West.” [Field paleontology techniques & tools; video of dinosaur digs needed in Spring 2008!]


=      “The Story of Life on Our Planet.” [Origins of Life; Paleozoic Life to modern times.]


=      “My Pet is Like Me!” [Comparative anatomy of the vertebrates with live animals from each Class – goldfish, frog, bearded dragon, parakeet, guinea pig, etc.]


=      “The Leg Bone is Connected to the Hip Bone.” [Skeletal anatomy of the vertebrates.]






The proposed exhibit “Twilight of the Dinosaur Age” introduces visitors to the world of the Late Cretaceous Period of the Western United States, 80-65 million years ago (mya) with a focus on the dinosaur fauna.  This is the end (“twilight”) of the 150+ million year reign of the dinosaurs as the dominant land animals on earth.


































A subtropical motif is used to take the visitor back in time to the age of dinosaurs using artificial palm trees, vines, ferns and conifers, and rough wood construction – especially for the Dino Prep Lab.  Footprints of adult and juvenile Hypacrosaurus lead visitors through the exhibit.  Dinosaur sounds play in the background.  Proposed exhibit size is 30 feet by 50 feet, or 1500 square feet.  The design of the exhibit structure is modular for possible future relocation.  Exhibit items can be temporarily removed (leaving a sign, “Out for Educational Duty,” in place of each item) for educational programs.  Natural life artists will be needed to paint murals, and sculptors will be needed to sculpt missing bones/partial bones of Laura the dinosaur.  The exhibit will have a professional look through the use of graphics arts specialists.  In this exhibit proposal, “HANDS-ON” refers to hands-on portions of exhibit that are spread out through exhibit and/or concentrated in the “Discovery Center.”  Also, “ITEMS” refers to specific exhibit items for each section including fossils, replicas, and models.


ENTRANCE:  Visitors are immediately immersed in the sub-tropical motif and pass through a set of replica jaws of “Peck’s Rex,” a Montana T. rex specimen.


INTRODUCTION TO GEOLOGICAL TIME:  Focus is on end of the age of dinosaurs = Late Cretaceous, 80-65 mya, time chart with dino pictures attached.  Use yearly calendar to teach about span of life on earth (humans only around last few days!).

             HANDS-ON: time chart “slider” to show each time period w/ dinos, more recent times/sediment layers towards the top

             ITEMS: Paleozoic Fossils, especially Devonian fossils from Eastern Iowa – trilobites, corals, brachiopods, crinoids.


THE ORIGIN & EVOLUTION OF THE DINOSAURS: What IS a dinosaur?  Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus, close relatives = crocodiles and pterosaurs.  The birds as modern dinosaurs.  Dinosaur family tree.

             HANDS-ON: QA panels with pictures of different animals – Is this a dinosaur?

             ITEMS: Herrerasaurus skull, alligator skull and juvenile skeleton, pterosaur replicas.


DINOSAURS OF THE JURASSIC PERIOD: sharp teeth, spine plates (Stegosaurus), and “long-necks”

            ITEMS: Allosaurus skull, claw, jaw replicas


TYRANNOSAURUS REX:  T. rex: Big Bully of the Cretaceous. The story of Peck’s Rex at Fort Peck Paleontology, Inc.  The story of Jane at the Burpee Museum.  Tyrannosaur growth, bone-crunching bite-and-hold-on teeth,  a big dangerous mouth running around on two legs, scavenger vs. predator

             HANDS-ON: mechanical arms – practically useless

             ITEMS: “Peck’s Rex” panel-mount skeleton featuring replica skull and leg, cervical vert, rib, teeth, claw replicas; Albertosaurus arm and foot replicas; genuine fossil teeth, claw, caudal vert; “Jane” dentary replica (skull replica?)


“LAURA THE JUVENILE DUCK-BILLED DINOSAUR”: Caution: Dinosaur Under Construction.  The story of Laura – see informational display.

             ITEMS: “Laura” fossil skeleton panel-mounted on plywood backing with T. rex bite marks to expose T. rex hip bones, construction barricade, hard hat, rock pick.


FOSSIL PREP LAB:  staffed by volunteer preparators who can talk to visitors (through intercom) about their work on Laura’s bones and other unprepped fossils, or answer questions about what visitors see through the viewing window.

             HANDS-ON:  Intercom switch and/or headsets for visitors to communicate with volunteer preparators.

             ITEMS:  Laura’s unprepped fossil bones and other unprepped fossils. Extra fossils, replicas, models, posters are on display in the back of the prep lab – visible through viewing window.  Fossil prep supplies, and molding and casting supplies are on shelves as well in prep lab.


DINOSAUR-BIRD CONNECTION:  Feathered Killer!  New Information on the Raptor Dinosaurs,  Other Feathered Dinos, Archaeopteryx

             HANDS-ON: QA Is this a raptor dino trait, bird trait, or both?  Mechanical killing claw.

             ITEMS: raptor dino skeleton model, “Jurassic Park” model, Archaeopteryx replicas/fleshed-out model, killing claw replicas, fossil teeth, claws, coracoid, other bones, pigeon skeleton.


DINOSAUR DIVERSITY: Duckbills = ideal plant processors and ideal prey.  Hypacrosaurus display showing fossil nest with eggshell and baby bones, hatchling model, and comparison of hatchling, Laura, and adult skulls (using replicas and diagrams).  Horn-faced dinosaurs (Triceratops).  Bone-heads (Pachycephalosaurus).  Thescelosaurus, Struthiomimus, etc.

             HANDS-ON: match dinosaur names to pictures, working duckbill dinosaur jaw cross-section showing expanding skull, bellows with pipe to show possible sounds made by crested duckbills like Parasaurolophus

             ITEMS: duckbill replica jaw/”Peanut” partial skull, duckbill fossils (many), Triceratops scapula and jaw fossils and skull model, Pachy skull model, bumpy nose replica.  Panel-mount adult Edmontosaurus and Hypacrosaurus skulls (3 ft long, replicas to be sold in gift shop), and 1:2 scale Triceratops skulls to be sculpted (use Paleoclones horns?).


NOT JUST DINOSAUR BONES: learn more about dinosaurs from trace fossils.

             HANDS-ON: touch some dinosaur poo.  Compare your foot to dino footprint

             ITEMS: coprolite, dino footprint and replicas, gastroliths, feather impressions, Edmontosaurus skin replica


BECOME A DINOSAUR DETECTIVE: microfossils and the world of the dinosaurs, fossil plants.  All about prospecting for and excavating fossil dinosaur bones.

             HANDS-ON: microscopes/magnifiers to view microfossils.

             ITEMS: variety of microfossils, fossils of small reptiles, mammals, fish, amphibians, plants.  Digging and cleaning tools (pick, shovel, brushes, dental tools, etc.), clothing (hat, vest, etc), jacketed dinosaur bone, maps, compass, record-keeping supplies (notebook, ID cards), and dig site photographs to explain about fossil hunting out west.


DISCOVERY CENTER:  “Show-and-Tell” Table – staffed on weekends by volunteers to allow visitors to touch specific fossils and replicas in order to learn something specific about world of dinosaurs.  Children’s art table (artwork is posted on a rotating basis and submitted for “Draw Laura” contest).  Activity table with puzzles, dino decoding, etc.  Microscopes and magnifiers.  Touch a real dino bone.  How can I learn more about paleontology?  Through books (samples available for viewing), visits to other museums, school projects, and educational programs.

             HANDS-ON:  See “Hands-on” portion of each section of this exhibit proposal.  These activities can be placed in each section of the exhibit and/or concentrated in the “Discovery Center.”  Crawl-through discovery tunnel for children with viewing windows into mini-displays.  Sand box “fossil dig” activity.

             ITEMS:  Items are pulled/supplemented from the exhibit for the “Show-and-Tell” table.


DINOSAUR EXTINCTION:  What killed off the dinosaurs 65 mya?  Research is ongoing – slow die-off vs. catastrophe, door is open for “Age of Mammals”

           HANDS-ON: lift panels to learn what might have happened to the


           ITEMS: meteorites


DAWN OF THE AGE OF MAMMALS:  The mammals take over as the dominant land animals after the final extinction of the dinosaurs 65 mya.  Oligocene mammals from White River Badlands, Ice Age mammals.

             ITEMS:  fossil mammals (skulls, skeletons, trace fossils) from White River Badlands, model oreodont, mineralized bones of ice age mammals, bison skull, smilodon skull replica, dire wolf skull replica.


EXHIBIT CREDITS:  Credits for exhibit design and construction.  Exhibit sponsors (including EIPP sponsors).


FUTURE PLANS FOR EXPANSION:  other dinosaur replica skulls, skeletons, fossil skeletons, addition of touch-screen computer technology, “The Rise of the Mammals” (mammoth or Stegodon, Smilodon, cave bear replica skeletons, additional White River Badlands fossil skeletons),

“Life from Ancient Oceans” (fossils from Eastern Iowa, Megalodon jaw reconstruction, Dunkleosteus replica skull).  Additional fossil dinosaur and mammal skeletons to be obtained through organized expeditions to BLM lands in Western US.

ITEMS:  Sample fossils/replicas from ancient oceans and age of mammals.  Conceptual drawings of future exhibit expansion.  Architectural drawings of new museum (or museum addition).


EXIT: Parents can exit to museum space outside the exhibit and view their children through window openings into the “Discovery Center.”

The above pictures represent a selection of fossils and replicas from Don Johnson’s dinosaur collection.






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EIPP President “Fossil Guy“ Don Johnson with his full-size replica of “Peck’s Rex” Tyrannosaurus rex skull.

Eastern Iowa Paleontology Project

“Bringing DINOSAURS to Iowa”


A portion of Don’s collection including (from top to bottom) a mounted oreodont skeleton, Native American artifacts, dinosaur fossils, replica sabertooth cat skull, and mineralized Ice Age bison skull.

Fossil mammals from the White River Badlands of South Dakota and Nebraska make up part of Don’s collection.

Some of Don’s Ice Age bison bones including a partial skull, jaw, sacrum, limb bones, and vertebra can be seen in this photograph.

A portion of the fossil skeleton of “Laura” is laid out for public display at the UI Museum of Natural History in October 2005.


Don Johnson’s daughter Laura with a portion of the skeleton of “Laura the Kid Dinosaur” in December 2005.

Click on pictures & graphics to see larger versions!

The complete fossil skeleton of “Laura the Kid Dinosaur” is laid out at the special “Laura” showing for the EIPP sponsors  at the UI Museum of Natural History in October 2005.


Make sure and take plenty of water when you’re digging dinosaur bones in temperatures over 100 degrees!

Young EIPP Sponsors hike out to the site of a dinosaur dig in the badlands of SW North Dakota (July 2007).

EIPP President Don Johnson uses an air-powered scribe to remove harder matrix from one Laura’s fossil bones.

Young EIPP sponsors lay next to Laura’s fossil skeleton to show scale at the UI Museum of Natural History in October 2005.

“Dawn at the Rookery” (1990) by paleoartist Mark Hallett shows a mother tending to her nestlings at a Hypacrosaurus stebingeri nesting ground.  To learn more about Mark Hallett’s artwork, visit his web site

at www.hallettpaleoart.com.  Copy-righted image used with permission.

A diagram of the skeleton of “Laura the Kid Dinosaur” was prepared by EIPP President Don Johnson after careful measurement of her fossil bones.