Curator Jerry Jacene and a staff volunteer put the finishing touches on the T-Rex skeleton now on display at the Highlands Prehistoric Museum in Cookeville.
COOKEVILLE — After months of planning, considerable cost and meticulous construction, Tennessee’s own full size skeleton of a T-Rex is finally complete and ready to welcome visitors to the Highlands Prehistoric Museum near Cookeville’s downtown square.
“Why travel to the Smithsonian in Washington DC when you can see the only TRex in the Southeast right here,” reasons world-renowned paleontologist, museum founder and curator Jerry Jacene. “This is the only three fingered T-Rex ever found, and on its bones you can see the battle scars of the last fight which probably brought him down.”
The massive skeleton measures nearly 40 feet long, 14 feet high at its hips with a head a full four feet long. Like dinosaur skeletons displayed in major museums around the world it is an exact cast, and one of only three made from the Fort Peck TRex. Every detail right down to the pores of the bones and indentations where the creature’s muscles were once attached can be seen.
Dramatically suspended from the ceiling and claiming nearly an entire wall of the 7,400 square foot museum main area, it is the centerpiece of what Jacene plan to make a premiere learning museums devoted to dinosaurs and and other prehistoric creatures.
Visitors will also see skeletons of other dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, dinosaur eggs, the skulls of sabertooth cats, tapirs, several fossil displays and Jacene’s sculpted reproductions of several ancient animals. There are also displays of regional, national and international fossils.
In the museum’s dinosaur lab, visitors can can watch as workers excavate the bones of duck-billed Brackylophosaurus and TRex grandfather Daspletosaurus from a large block of rock sediment. It was cut and shipped from the ground in Montana so the bones could be removed under Jacene’s exacting supervision.
“I’ve tried to make this kind of museum where you can have fun and learn,” he explains. “I lead most tours so here’s an opportunity to actually speak with the guy who has done all the work in the field.”
Jacene has had lucrative offers to relocate the museum elsewhere, but he’s intent on establishing it here. Since it’s a private museum, he receives no public funding, and depends on community support and regular visitors for his success. “Cookeville is home , and that’s where we want to stay,” he sums up.
For information on visiting the museum, hours, or group tours check the museum’s website www.highlandsprehistoricmuseum.com or contact curator and paleontologist Jerry Jacene at (931) 526-3204.