The Sherman Museum ended its annual Dino Days exhibition on Saturday with a special appearance from the replica-Jeep-driving members of the Jurassic Park Motor Pool of Texas.
Three replica vehicles displaying the iconic “Jurassic Park” logos, joined a fourth and final tribute Jeep, deemed part of the “Raptor Patrol,” and were parked at the bottom of the museum steps for all to see. After posing for photos with the off-road entourage, visitors of all ages made their way inside the museum where they examined complete fossils and dinosaur-themed exhibits, before they were treated to a screening of the blockbuster movie.
“Dinosaurs are or were, depending on how you look at it, fascinating animals,” Sherman Museum Executive Director Dan Steelman said. “They allow the use of imagination. Since they’ve been gone for so long, the only thing left to do is wonder what they might have been like and that really fuels the fascination.”
Steelman said while Saturday marked the end of the sixth annual Dino Days, it closed with considerable growth from its very first days.
“It started back in 2012 and really all we had when we started was a lot of individual skulls and artifacts,” Steelman said of the exhibit. “Since then, we’ve built up a collection of our own and expanded exhibits. This year, I think we had six complete skeletons.”
The museum director said the study of dinosaurs, as well as the public’s overall interest in them, has also improved tremendously in recent decades, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years.
“Whenever I was young and studying science, we knew dinosaurs to be kind of a dead end,” Steelman said. “Back then, they were big, they were slow, slothful like animals that really just didn’t have anything going for them. But it turns out they were anything but. We’ve found that birds we see today descended from dinosaurs.”
While the last of the dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago, Steelman said their bones and appeal have endured.
Steelman said while the movie took some biological liberties — including the transformation of the fully-feathered and Thanksgiving Turkey-sized velociraptor into a large, scaly maneater — it did a lot to bring dinosaurs back into the spotlight.
“’Jurassic Park’ was great from the standpoint that they treated these dinosaurs like living, breathing animals,” he said. “The CGI (computer generated imagery) was able to make them come alive to an extent that we had never seen before. It was one of the first movies, if not the movie, to really reignite people’s passion in dinosaurs.”
So when Steelman was contacted by the Jurassic Park Motor Pool and the group offered to bring their replica Jeeps out for Dino Days’ last hoorah of the year, he was thrilled.
Jurassic Park Motor Pool of Texas Leader David McDonough said members of the larger national pool participate in Dino Days-type events across the country, so after he heard through the grapevine that the Sherman Museum was having its own exhibit, the rest was history.
“We called up the Sherman Museum and asked if they were interested in having the Jeeps out and they said they were,” McDonough said. “I guess you could say we make a great pair.”
McDonough said many of the pool members are huge fans of the movie and drive their Jeeps every day. And seldom does any trip out on the road go unnoticed.
“We get very positive reactions — a lot of people give us a thumbs up as we’re driving down the highway,” McDonough said. “People stop to take pictures constantly. It’s like driving a celebrity around town.”
Steelman said it is highly unlikely that dinosaurs will ever be brought back to life as they were on the silver screen, but on the off chance the Jurassic giants do rise again, McDonough said having the exact vehicle from the film probably wouldn’t help his odds of survival.
“I honestly think that I would certainly get eaten quickly, because I would end up spending too much time staring at a live dinosaur from my Jeep,” McDonough said. “It’s all open top, so it’d be easy access for the dinosaurs.”