ND Heritage Center unveils DinoMummy exhibit

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Paleontologist Jeff Person explains the process of preserving a fossil.

“First, we do as little as we have to, the second is we keep the fossils in a stable environment. That is the reason why we don’t do preparation out in the field. You don’t want to have this thing out and exposed to the sun, rain, and the wind,” ND Geological Survey Paleontologist Jeff Person said.

Dakota The Dinomummy Exhibit returns to the North Dakota Heritage Center after going off display in 2018.

It first opened in 2008.

“We decided that we wanted to tell a more defined story about Dakota.” Person said

That story includes Dakota, an Edmontosaurus that was discovered in southwestern North Dakota in 1999.

The dinosaur is one of a handful of mummified dinosaurs in the world, with its skin preserved so that you can even see the scales.

“You can touch Dakota; you can touch a replica of that skin and get a feel of what it kind of would be like; that experience of being as close as you will ever be to actually touch a dinosaur,” Person said.

In 2018, the museum removed the exhibit to make improvements.

“The entire fossil is encased in a pretty hard ironstone rock; we actually have to take pneumatic tools that are like miniature jackhammers and chip away the rock. We have to find where the scales are and follow the scales,” Fossil Preparer for ND Geological Survey Mindy Householder said.

Paleontologists said they discovered and changed a lot about the exhibit during the three-year revamping process.

“You can actually tell the arm is an arm, before you really couldn’t tell, it was upside down and there was quite a lot of rock on it,” Householder said.

“In paintings and drawings, the tail of the animal is very close to the bones that we know are in the tail. In this case, we knew that that tail was much deeper, had a much bigger tail, much deeper tail than we originally thought,” Person said.

Paleontologists also said that Dakota is about the size of a school bus and is a teenage dinosaur.

The exhibit currently shows just Dakota the dinosaur’s arm and tail, but the museum is considering bringing the entire body to the display.

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