About two weeks ago I visited the American Museum of Natural History for a preview of their upcoming dinosaur exhibit. The chance to visit the dinosaur halls—and the collections!—after dark was an opportunity I did not want to miss, especially since my first visit to the museum, in the late 1980s, gave me dinosaur dreams. I was already interested in the extinct monsters when I walked through those halls for the first time, but it is one thing to see an illustration in a book and quite another to visit the ancient bones of titans like Tyrannosaurus, "Brontosaurus" and Triceratops.
I was not the only one to be inspired by the massive bones on display at the AMNH. The late paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould often remarked that he decided to study ancient life after seeing the museum's Tyrannosaurus skeleton as a child. How many other paleontologists and dinosaur fanatics have been similarly inspired? Standing next to the museum's classic Allosaurus skeleton during the exhibit preview, I asked this question of a few people I had been chatting with. Some of them said that they, too, had been deeply impressed by the AMNH dinosaurs.
So I am opening the question up here, and I would especially love to hear from paleontologists. Was there a special museum visit or especially impressive skeleton that stimulated your interest in dinosaurs? I imagine that many professionals and dinosaur fans can credit the AMNH Tyrannosaurus for enlivening their interest in the field, but I would love to hear from people who had different experiences. What's your story?