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1977 graduate’s gift gives Amherst College museum Jurassic bragging rights

  • A skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>

    A skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst.
    KEVIN GUTTING
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus dinosaur, left, is silhouetted against a window in the lower level of the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History after the alumnus gift was unveiled on Friday. Dryosaurus, about the size of a pony, roamed North America in the Jurassic period as did the much larger diplodocus longus, the legs of which are seen at right.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus dinosaur, left, is silhouetted against a window in the lower level of the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History after the alumnus gift was unveiled on Friday. Dryosaurus, about the size of a pony, roamed North America in the Jurassic period as did the much larger diplodocus longus, the legs of which are seen at right.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeff Haworth of Research Casting International installs an informational plaque beneath the skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, which was unveiled in the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Jeff Haworth of Research Casting International installs an informational plaque beneath the skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, which was unveiled in the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>
  • A Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, is on view at the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus dinosaur, left, is silhouetted against a window in the lower level of the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History after the alumnus gift was unveiled on Friday. Dryosaurus, about the size of a pony, roamed North America in the Jurassic period as did the much larger diplodocus longus, the legs of which are seen at right.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Jeff Haworth of Research Casting International installs an informational plaque beneath the skeleton of a Dryosaurus altus, a dinosaur that roamed North America in the Jurassic period, which was unveiled in the Amherst College Beneski Museum of Natural History on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

— Next to the towering legs of another specimen that roamed the Earth 150 million years, the new dinosaur on display at the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College is tiny.

But what the Dryosuarus altus lacks in size, it makes up for in importance as the 3 1/2-foot tall and 10-foot long skeleton becomes a signature piece for the museum.

The public will be able to view the dinosaur, the first new addition to the Beneski’s collection of dinosaurs in decades, beginning this weekend, on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“It’s not everyday you get a dinosaur,” said museum director and geology professor Tekla Harms, who describes the Dryosaurus as a small and fleet herbivore.

John Middleton, a 1977 Amherst College graduate, and wife Leigh purchased the well-preserved skeleton at auction, for an undisclosed sum, and donated it to the college. This make the college only the second museum, next to Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, to have a mostly complete skeleton of the dinosaur.

Harms said the feedback from the scientific community is that people are thrilled the Dryosaurus will be in a museum where the bones and skull can be studied by paleontologists.

“It’s great for science and great for the college. It was a great act,” Harms said.

Scientists, Harms said, are always worried these bones might end up in private collections rather than on public display.

For the public, Harms said what will be striking is that the Dryosaurus, and Diplodocus longus, whose gigantic 10-foot tall legs stand next to it, were both plant-eating dinosaurs found in the same location in Wyoming, are from the same time period, but because of their differences in height and size ate different plant matter.

A three-man crew from Research Casting International of Ontario came to the college Tuesday morning, to both give a prominent spot to the Dryosaurus and to rearrange the other dinosaurs in that part of the museum.

Harms said the museum doesn’t ever anticipate getting more, noting the focus is on local collections, including the numerous dinosaur tracks discovered by Edward Hitchcock. But the museum was willing to find space. “Something as wonderful as this you make room for it,” Harms said.

Matt Fair, production manager for the company that does work all over the world, said had a new platform was needed so that the Dryosaurus would be mounted correctly and be more visually appealing.

Between 42 and 44 percent of the skeleton is made from real bone material, and is held in place by blacksmith armature crafted in the studio over a three-month period so that the bones can be removed for study.

“The hard part was the small mounts that are real fossil in making them removable,” Fair said.

A fabricated head was the last part of the skeleton attached, though the real skull will be encased in a separate box and be on display in the future. That is currently being studied, while interpretive signs are also being made.

This is all tobacco money - stay away! From -the Phildelphia newspaper: "John Middleton is one of the owners of the Philadelphia Phillies. His cigar-making company, John Middleton Inc., was bought for $2.9 billion by Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc. in 2007. " This is the same John Middleton who donated to Amherst. They have it on their website. Why doesn't the gazette reporter do a little digging to find out what the source of this money is? They never do their job. Alot of the money coming in to the valley is from these rich people. Somehow that seems to be OK if its money associated with the colleges but if its from a business forget it - its bad. Why doesn't the editor of the gazette insist that his reports ALWAYS do a background search on any person named in an aritcle and if there is any info out there let the readers know. Thats basic journalism 101 I thought. And Beneski is a PE (that Private Equity for the uninformed) guy. Why isn't that mentioned?

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