Science Museum of Minnesota
This model was created for an SMM exhibit in 1934.
Feathers, wood, wax, cardboard
Meet Archaeopteryx, an ancient bird that flew through the skies of the late Jurassic forests of today’s Germany more than 150 million year ago. For a long time, Archaeopteryx was regarded as the oldest known bird because it had feathers. New discoveries of bird fossils, however, now show that it is one of the earliest birds of record.
This model of Archaeopteryx is a recent restoration of a model made in 1934 here at SMM for an exhibit on creatures of the palm-like treed forests of Bavaria, Germany, during the late Jurassic period. SMM volunteer Becky Huset did the restoration work on this model. How did this project compare to her usual paleontology preparation work?
Courtesy SMM"It was really fun, because it was quite different from what I usually do," says Becky. "I think the hardest part was giving myself permission to paint over the work that someone else had done in 1934. This object is an antique." It took her about two months, working two days a week, to give the model a complete 21st Century makeover.
That someone was Gustaf Sundstrom, an SMM paleontology preparer who created models of several Jurassic creatures native to Germany for a museum exhibit. Both then and with this current restoration, the preparers have some margin for creativity. All we know for sure about Archaeopteryx is what we see from its fossilized bone remains (see image below).
Are you feeling creative? Trying writing your own museum exhibit label for this model in the space below to share your thoughts with other museum visitors.
Courtesy Mark RyanHere are some links to other sources of information about Archaeopteryx.
10 facts about Archaeopteryx, including analysis of its ability to actually fly. It was a glider.
How did Archaeopteryx lose its status as the "first" bird? Plus, see a skeletal drawing of the bird.
Get inside of Archaeoptreryx's brain, plus illustrations of the birds soaring in the forest.
The evolutionary connections between Archaeopteryx and dinosaurs.
Do you really dig dinosaurs? National Fossil Day is Saturday, Oct. 19, and SMM will be offering an array of special fossil programs between 1 and 4 p.m. that day.
Also, a new traveling exhibit – Ultimate Dinosaurs – will be coming to SMM in March 2014. Learn more about it here.