Dinosaur lovers have some particularly fun options right now: The Brookfield Zoo is offering a Dinos & Dragons exhibit through Sept. 17 that features animatronic creatures and explores the legends that often connect real-life dinosaurs to mythical dragons. The Field Museum has Jurassic World: The Exhibition through Jan. 7, 2018; a Go West contributor recently visited and we’ll be sharing her experiences soon.
Both of those require a paid admission fee. But there’s also an exhibit right now that is FREE and fun and makes for a great summertime outing.
“Dinosaur Giants: An Exhibit from the Sereno Fossil Lab” is on display through Sept. 24 at the Gail Borden Public Library in downtown Elgin. It features four full-scale dinosaur skeletons, one dino skull and one full-scale model featuring “flesh and skin” along with some fun interactive elements.
The bones of the dinosaurs on display are plaster casts of fossils discovered in Africa by the famous paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno. The dinosaurs would have lived about 110 to 135 million years ago. Sereno’s Fossil Lab at the University of Chicago is a creative and learning space where students and faculty from the University of Chicago come together to study fossils from around the world.
The most impressive display at the library is the Jobaria skeleton, a sauropod that is so tall (33 feet) it starts on the library’s first floor, goes up through a staircase opening and ends on the second floor. The actual femur fossil of Jobaria – weighing about 350 pounds – is available to see and touch near the entrance to the children’s section of the library. There are some cute “photo ops” too – like one that makes it appear your child is pulling a dino on a leash.
The Gail Borden Public Library has created a number of events and programs that tie into the dinosaur exhibit. There are guided tours (starting from “Base Camp” near the entrance) offered several times a day. You can find info on those here. There’s also a “Little Dinos” scavenger hunt at businesses around Elgin and South Elgin this month. You can visit the exhibit anytime the library is open: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
While “Dinosaur Giants” isn’t a big exhibit, it makes for a great, free activity to do on a summer day. The Gail Borden Public Library offers a wonderful play space for younger children, and afterward you could visit SEBA Park in South Elgin (about a 4-mile drive) or Festival Park in Elgin, located just a mile away and offering a splash pad.
Library Director Carole Medal said in a press release that “being able to showcase an exhibit of this caliber is thrilling. It provides our community with a world-class educational and artistic experience — right in their own library. We also have tremendous resources for people to explore further.”
Sereno said he’s glad to partner again with the Gail Borden Public Library; he was part of a similar exhibit in 2005.
“The goal is to bring these very personal discoveries of mine to life, to share with young and old the thrill and adventure the of expeditions, and to tell the story of dinosaur life on Africa,” he said. “It’s just a great teaching tool.”