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Published June 11, 2013

Community Corner: Dinosaurs in Motion

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh has never been a stranger to prehistoric beasts. The exhibits proudly showcase a notable cousin of the T-Rex, the Acrocanthosaurus, as well as a Thescelosaurus specimen that may be the only dinosaur skeleton in existence with the fossilized remains of a heart.

Seen here forcing his T-Rex to behave with only a piercing glare.
Seen here forcing his T-Rex to behave with only a piercing glare.

While these are wonders to behold, through September 8th visitors can interact with dinosaurs in a more hands-on way. Dinosaurs in Motion is a fascinating series of steel sculptures conceived of and constructed by the late John Payne.

Payne’s dinosaurs are life-size skeletons made of steel, hammered and welded by hand.

Not content to simply display intimidating metallic replicas of Triceratops, T-Rex, and others, the North Carolina native designed pulley systems for each beast. With the help of cables sturdy enough to lift a tank, each of Payne’s sculptures can bob, swing, and bite with hauntingly fluid precision.

While on display at the museum, each of the kinetic sculptures can be manipulated by visitors either by hand with pulleys or by specially-programmed controllers.

Trex_Payne_540The Tyrannosaur is the most impressive in size, but the pair of Ornithomimuses is perhaps the most mesmerizing. Standing arm-in-arm, the two ostrich-like animals sway and chatter with each other as if they have pressing matters to discuss, oblivious to their audience. Each of these sculptures must be seen to be fully appreciated. While patrons must pay for admission, Payne’s combination of paleontology and engineering is well worth the price.

Dinosaurs in Motion will be on display at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh until September 8th. For hours and admission prices, please visit the exhibit’s listing at the museum’s web site. For more information about John Payne and his kinetic sculptures, check out this very cool video of him and his work:

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  • Greg Trombley


  • I'm an RDU-based novelist and passionate champion of scientific progression. Nature and science live side-by-side in my heart. I clean dinosaur bones in my spare time, and love reading about local history. All my articles.

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