For months, Royal Ontario Museum's Associate Curator, Dr. David Evans and the team from Toronto, ON had been scouring the planet for a sauropod (think Dino from "The Flintstones"). They needed to fill a gap in their Jurassic-era exhibit in time for the Age of Dinosaurs Gallery's much-anticipated reopening at the ROM. En route to a Wyoming (USA) bone excavation, Evans came across a journal article photo giving the precise location of one of the world's extremely rare skeletons: the ROM.
"We were probably somewhere over Michigan and my jaw dropped," he says from his office in Toronto. "I couldn't believe it. I basically just wanted to turn the plane around. As soon as I got back, I made a beeline for the collections."
What he discovered, scattered throughout the very big collections room, were chunks of bones that would eventually join to become one of the most complete skeletons of one of the largest dinosaur species ever to roam the planet. Today, the 27-m (90-ft) long skeleton is the only real skeleton of a Barosaurus hung in a lifelike position in the world.
"You couldn't lose anything bigger, basically," says Evans, laughing. "It is the biggest possible dinosaur you could misplace, or forget about, or not really realize you had."
Turns out that the dinosaur was part of a trade made in 1962 with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA (USA) by then-curator, Gord Edmund. Though Edmund knew he'd received a sauropod, at the time, there was no place to display the rare Barosaurus. He had the bones put into storage. Edmund soon retired and later passed away. It would take another 45 years for the dinosaur to take its rightful place in the collection.
The efforts have paid off for the museum: record attendance, lineups out the door, emails and phone calls asking about the largest dinosaur on display in Canada.
"We named the sauropod "Gordo" after Gord Edmund," says Evans. "It was his vision to put it on display and by following through with it here, we made Gord's dream become reality."
Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer and travel columnist based in Toronto, ON. Always on the lookout for a new adventure, she's often in an airport with notebook in hand, camera over her shoulder and children in tow. Her twice-monthly Toronto Star column, "Alternate Arrangements," features interesting people, places and things across the planet.
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