boxes in lobby
Mystery boxes arrived in our lobby.

Here in Dickinson Hall we’re quite used to seeing odd looking boxes arrive in our lobby. We have over 40 million specimens in our collections, and often receive shipments of new specimens, or returns of loaned specimens.

So the sight of several wooded crates stacked in the lobby today (looking somewhat Indiana Jones-ish), barely raised an eyebrow. Until Roger Portell and his team came out and opened up the crates.

Even then, many regular Dickinsonians only casually glanced at the bubble-wrapped contents as they dodged packing peanuts and went about their business. It wasn’t until parts started to get assembled that anyone stopped to have a look and guess at the skeleton taking shape.

Roger, collection director in our invertebrate paleontology and micropaleontology division, accepted this gift and it was decided that it would grace our lobby for the foreseeable future. The sculpture was done by Steve and Sue Hutchens from specimens of terror birds found in Florida, as well as research on other birds of this type found elsewhere, such as South America.

Terror birds (in this case Titanis walleri) evolved in South America and came to North America over the Panamanian land bridge about 5 million years ago. They lived in Florida approximately 2.3-1.8 million years ago. We have a Titanis walleri sculpture on display in our Florida Fossil hall that is based on fossils found in the nearby Santa Fe River.