Moving dinosaurs around the world when international travel shuts down | Touring Exhibitions

T.rex: The Killer Question

The Natural History Museum’s blockbuster exhibition ‘T. rex: The Killer Question’ launched in London before going on a global tour, where it has been touring the world since 2003 – one of our longest running touring exhibitions.

Popular with adults and children alike, the exhibition brings visitors face to face with terrifying animatronics and goes in depth with static models, graphical displays and casts to study T.rex’s size, sharp teeth, arm length and powerful legs and decide if it was a monstrous predator or actually a prehistoric scavenger.

The eye-popping exhibition descends on Bern

After an amazing six month run at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Bern, Switzerland the exhibition reached over 140,000 visitors helping smash the Museum’s 180-year old annual visitor attendance record. The exhibition was due to be exited by the Natural History Museum touring team in March and returned to London, but then the pandemic started.

‘T.rex: The Killer Question’ at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Bern, Switzerland (© Naturhistorisches Museum)

The question now was: How to uninstall an exhibition which includes nine animatronic dinosaurs and five static dinosaurs, and needs four large trucks to transport the models, without the necessary technical team from London? The life-size giant adult T.rex is more than 12m/39.4ft long, 2.2m/7.2ft wide and 5m/16.4ft tall!

The exhibition teams at both museums decided that remote deinstallation was the only way to go, but neither team had ever attempted such a task before. Even worse, some members of the NHM operations team were stuck in completely different parts of the world, resulting in the deinstall being negotiated across four countries (UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia) and three different times zones.

Deinstallation of ‘T.rex: The killer Question’ at the Naturhistorisches Museum (© Naturhistorisches Museum)

Sticking to a very tight schedule, planning started in earnest on 1 June and the dismantling started on 9 June, with eight technical staff from the Naturhistorisches Museum working under the supervision of two members of the NHM touring exhibitions remotely managing the deinstall.

The whole operation was a minefield of obstacles; the full size static T.rex had to be ‘craned’ in and out of the gallery because it was too big for the internal doors. Even with these challenges, the highly skilled Bern team managed to complete the deinstall in just three days, one day earlier than scheduled.

Deinstallation of ‘T.rex: The killer Question’ at the Naturhistorisches Museum (© Naturhistorisches Museum)

Homeward bound 

After the huge success dismantling the exhibition, the whole set was transported back to London on the 1st of July and all exhibits are now safely back at the NHM. A huge thanks and congratulations to everyone involved! You can find out more about T.rex: The Killer Question here: nhm.ac.uk/touringexhibitions

Life-size static model of a T.rex, part of the exhibition ‘T.rex: The Killer Question’ (© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum)

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