Abu Dhabi’s new Natural History Museum will house the $32 million T. Rex fossil
In unveiling its plans for a new natural history museum, Abu Dhabi has revealed itself as the new owner of the world's most expensive fossil - ‘Stan’ the T. Rex – which will be housed in the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi. The fossil sold at Christie’s for $31.8 Million in 2020 and at the time of purchase, the buyer remained anonymous.
Covering an area of more than 35,000 square metres, The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will be located in the emirate's Saadiyat Cultural District which includes Louvre Abu Dhabi and the upcoming Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, as part of Abu Dhabi's strategy to position the emirate as a centre for culture, arts and creativity.
Set to open to the public in 2025, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will feature some of the rarest wonders of natural history with the highlight of the collection being 'Stan', a remarkable, mostly complete 11.7 metres Tyrannosaurus rex, which is one of the best preserved and most studied fossils of this iconic predator from the Late Cretaceous Period.
Stan was dug up in 1992 on private land in South Dakota. For more than 20 years, the fossil was protected and studied at the private Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota.
However, after a legal conflict between brothers Pete and Neal Larson, two of the institute’s largest shareholders, a judge ordered Stan’s sale in 2018, prompting the most expensive auction for a fossil of any creature at Christie’s New York.
Known by scientists around the world, years of scientific studies of 'Stan' have furthered our knowledge of countless aspects of T. rex. Now that 'Stan' has a new home at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, this 67-million-year-old dinosaur will be in the care of expert scientists, and will continue to contribute to education and research and inspire future explorers.
'Stan' will be joined by an extraordinary Murchison Meteorite specimen, which famously crash-landed in Australia more than 40 years ago and has since revealed to scientists new information about the early solar system. Containing a huge range of organic 'stardust' compounds as well as pre-solar grains which formed over seven billion years ago – long before our current solar system existed – the meteorite provides ancient insight into the very building blocks of life.
Lead architects Mecanoo designed the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi to resonate with natural rock formations, reflecting the museum's goal of improving understanding of and engagement with the natural world. Every element of the design uses geometry as an overriding theme, with pentagonal shapes resembling cellular structures. Also playing an important role in the design are water and vegetation, potent symbols of life in the desert. In addition to the gallery display areas, the museum will include temporary exhibition spaces for special events and theatre facilities. Enabling and marine works have commenced on the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi construction site.
With a focus on immersive displays, curated collections with exceptional specimens, and innovative, interactive mediations, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi galleries will take visitors on a journey back to the very beginning of time, narrating the evolution of our universe, the Earth's formation, and the history of life on our planet – as well as providing a glimpse into our possible future.
In addition to global natural history, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will for the first time present the history of life on Earth through an Arabian lens, where local natural assets of fauna, flora and the geological history of the region will be part of the visitor journey.
Conceived and developed by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) in partnership with Miral, Abu Dhabi's leading creator of destinations and experiences the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will be a scientific research and teaching institution and an educational resource for learning about the evolving story of our planet, aiming to ignite a life-long passion for the natural world in visitors of all ages.
According to HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, nurturing awareness of how we are impacting the planet has never been more important.
HE Al Mubarak notes "Natural history has a new home in Abu Dhabi. A new museum which tells the story of our universe through some of the most incredible natural wonders known to mankind. These are awe-inspiring gifts from nature that we are proud to share with the world – unlocking millions of years of knowledge to not only advance scientific discovery but to inspire our children to protect our planet's future.
"As we nurture a new generation of global advocates that are incredibly curious and passionate about natural history, we are fulfilling our vision to enrich lives and make Abu Dhabi the place for research, collaboration and discovery."
It will join a global community of natural history museums committed to public education and to the development and sharing of scientific research. Within the museum, the innovative scientific research facility will undertake studies in areas including zoology, palaeontology, marine biology, molecular research (aDNA and proteomics), and earth sciences. The primary aim will be to advance knowledge and increase understanding of our past, but also to create a think tank for future innovation and emerging technologies.
The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will offer employment opportunities in the emirate and on the wider national and regional levels, with curators set to be appointed to cover the full spectrum of natural sciences. In addition, it aims to attract and develop young talent as part of Abu Dhabi's drive to accelerate the culture and creative industries.
The Saadiyat Cultural District will soon also include the Zayed National Museum, the national museum of the UAE; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, focusing on global Modern and Contemporary art; and the Abrahamic Family House, which will comprise three religious spaces in one place – a mosque, a synagogue and a church – to inspire and nurture acceptance and peaceful coexistence among people of all faiths.
Image top: ‘Stan’ the T. Rex, Courtesy of Christie's; image above Abu Dhabi Natural History Museum Coastal Panoramic
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