It was a cross-country move 66 million years in the making.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History celebrated the arrival of the Wankel Tyrannosaurus rex on Apr. 15, making it the Smithsonian’s first ever T. rex.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has a long relationship with the Smithsonian,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, Chief of Engineers and USACE Commanding General. "Together, we are making another contribution to the landscape of D.C., bringing the Nation’s T. rex to the Nation’s capital where it can educate and inspire future generations.”
The T. rex has been on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., since its excavation in 1993. Last summer, USACE agreed to loan the Wankel T.rex, one of two owned by the Army, to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History for 50 years. The fossil will serve as a centerpiece of the Museum’s new paleobiology hall, scheduled to open in 2019.
“The Smithsonian truly is the Nation’s museum,” said Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum for Natural History Direction Dr. Kirk Johnson. “The Tyrannasaurus rex is the most iconic dinosaur, so to have it here is a wonderful honor. It is the Nation’s T. rex.”
The T. rex was discovered in 1988 at Fort Peck Reservoir, Mont., property owned by USACE, by Kathy and Tom Wankel. The fossil, measuring 38 feet long and weighing seven tons, is the most complete T. rex ever found, and is the first one found with a full arm.
“We were out hiking, looking for fossils, when I saw what appeared to be a bone sticking out of the ground,” said Kathy Wankel. “We knew it was something special right away, but we had no idea how big of a find it truly was.”
Prior to its departure, the Omaha District and the USACE Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections, St. Louis, led by Sonny Trimble, performed a detailed inventory, a conservation assessment and carefully packaged the fossil for its journey to Washington D.C.
“When the T. rex arrived we made sure that all of the crates arrived safely and were properly unloaded,” Trimble said. “We are working closely with the Smithsonian Institute to ensure that this fossil is well preserved so it can be enjoyed for many generations.”
The Center of Expertise is one of the largest single organizations in the Department of Defense dedicated to addressing heritage assets.
“In terms of national archaeological collections, the Corps is second only to the Smithsonian in terms of numbers of artifacts,” Bostick said. “We are proud to participate in protecting and preserving the Nation’s paleontological resources by maintaining state-of-the-art expertise in natural resource and heritage assets stewardship in support of U.S. government agencies.”
Now that it has arrived at the Smithsonian Institute, the T. rex will undergo curation and inventory until October before being moved again to Canada for the T. rex to be specially fit for a custom cradle for exhibition. The fossil will then return to the Smithsonian Institute where it will remain in storage until renovations are complete on the new dinosaur hall, which is planned to open in the fall of 2019.