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Smithsonian's new Fossil Hall to open in June 2019 with refurbished T. rex

Smithsonian's new Fossil Hall to open in June 2019 with refurbished T. Rex. (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)
Smithsonian's new Fossil Hall to open in June 2019 with refurbished T. Rex. (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)
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In less than a year, the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History will open a new fossil hall. The exhibit will feature a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton as the center-point.

T. rex is back at the Smithsonian after getting touched up and assembled by specialists in Ontario, Canada. The dinosaur skeleton will soon take the spotlight in the most visited room in the world's most visited natural history museum.

The hall is currently getting a makeover. The last major update to the exhibit happened about 100 years ago.

“It was a quite a dark hall. There were no windows, no skylights. And the science was old. And the specimens were in the exact same position they'd been in since 1923,” said National Museum of Natural History Sant Director Kirk Johnson.

The 450 T. rex bones were shipped from Ontario to D.C. by FedEx.

“This week, we moved 15 different truckloads, so 15 tractor trailers and/or straight trucks into the museum with all the bones,” CEO of FedEx Custom Critical Virginia Addicott said.

The T. rex thigh bones measure about four feet long. And when fully assembled, curators estimate the skeleton will stand about 16 feet tall and 40 feet long.

“The width of the bone gives us an idea of the weight of the animal. So this represents an animal that weighs four or five tons," the museum’s dinosaurs curator Matthew Carrano said.

“The nation's T. rex” - as it's called - will be posed in action devouring a triceratops. These are among 700 specimens in the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils Deep Time, named after the billionaire and conservative political donor who gave the Smithsonian $35 million.

The Koch name is controversial among some scientists and environmental activists. David and his brother Charles Koch have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in financial support to conservative and libertarian causes, distributed through groups like Americans for Prosperity which lobbied for the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement. AFP also opposes “cap-and-trade” regulations meant to curb emissions and prevent climate change.

Museum leaders stress that the Smithsonian is apolitical and that they don't vet donors based on their politics.

Indeed, other exhibits are named after other donors. There is The Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals or The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals.

“We also make very clear in the gift agreement that we appreciate the donations but there's no content from the donor in the exhibit,” Johnson said. “The content is driven entirely by the scientists and the staff here.”

Johnson said the fossil exhibit will explore a range of scientific topics, including climate change. Overall, he said the exhibit will tell the story of 3.7 billion years of life on Earth, updated with the latest science and research.

The fossil hall is set to open next June.

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