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Museum trades T-Rex for its New Mexico kin Bisti Beast

Stan, the Tyrannosaurus rex, has been housed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science since 2007. The dinosaur is being moved to the Farmington Museum beginning Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Stan is leaving the building.

The Tyrannosaurus rex on display inside the atrium at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is slated to be taken down Monday. Stan has been at the museum since 2007 and part of the exhibit “T-Rex Attack.”

But don’t fret.

In Stan’s place, the museum is presenting New Mexico’s own Bistahieversor robotic dinosaur created based on the Bisti Beast specimen discovered in 1997 in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in the Four Corners by museum research associate Paul Sealey.

The Bisti Beast fossil was excavated in 1998 and collected by museum Curator of Paleontology Thomas Williamson, Ph.D.

The Japanese-made robot is en route to Albuquerque and will arrive in early May. It will begin taking shape at the end of May when the Japanese technicians will be out to get the robot set up.

The Japanese-made Bistahieversor robotic dinosaur – or Bisti Beast – will be installed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

For the next two months, staff at the museum will get the area in the atrium ready by building a rock wall as well as lining the back wall and putting up a rainforest background.

“We wanted to have a big splash opening and the ability to do that is beyond us because we’d have to hide it from the visitors,” said Margie Marino, the museum’s executive director. “People can come get a sneak peek of the dinosaur while we are setting it up at the end of May. The technicians from Japan are flying in to get us all set up.”

Marino and her staff have been working diligently on getting the robotic dinosaur to the museum.

Before the end of last year, then-Secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs Veronica Gonzales approved funding for the dinosaur.

The cost of the new dinosaur is $120,000.

“We spent $300,000 to get ‘da Vinci: Genius’ and that did well for us,” Marino said. “This dinosaur is used and would have cost us four times that amount to get a new one. We’ve been told that the life of a dinosaur like this is 20-30 years. It’s worth it because it becomes one of the main attractions at the museum.”

The Bisti Beast is about 25% smaller than the size of Stan.

It was built to replicate the movement of the dinosaur. The eyes, head and arms move and its tail sways from side to side.

Visitors will also be able to witness the dinosaur’s breathing pattern.

Not to be outdone, every 30 minutes the Bisti Beast will roar.

“I think it’s good for kids and we’re going to be really watching that,” Marino said. “Because it’s right in the atrium, it can’t be missed.”

Replacing Stan isn’t the only movement happening at the museum.

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science employees gather around Stan, the Tyrannosaurus rex, inside the museum in 2007. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Marino said upgrades are beginning to take place at the Planetarium, as well as the volcano and earthquake exhibits.

“Ultimately, we want to upgrade our main attractions,” Marino said. “The volcano is getting completely redone and an all new interpretation. There is going to be an interactive lava floor and more visual effects on the wall. It’s going to feel like you are walking through a real volcano. The Planetarium is going to get completely remodeled. Whenever we got funding in the past, it always has gone to hardware costs. Visitors aren’t seeing much changed and we’re going to remedy that. Getting the older permanent exhibits upgraded and making them more digital, will be easier to maintain and last longer.”

Stan will be moved to the Farmington Museum and stay there until May 31, 2020.

Marino said there are plans to take it to travel around the state.

“Stan is a wonderful dinosaur but it wasn’t discovered in New Mexico,” she said. “We’ve done this once before and it was hugely popular. We’re getting Stan out to locations that don’t really get a chance to see him. It’s a great educational piece to the puzzle.”

Though Stan is one of the largest predatory dinosaurs of all time, Marino said replacing Stan with the new Bisti Beast will give New Mexicans the chance to see the dinosaur that was found in New Mexico.

“It’s New Mexico’s own dinosaur,” Marino said. “We feel that the museum is too broad and has too many things. Everything that we are redesigning has a New Mexico focus. That’s going to be our emphasis over the next several years.”