The Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of the world’s premiere palaeontological research facilities and Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, protection, presentation and interpretation of palaeontological history, with special reference to Alberta’s rich fossil record. Offering a variety of programs designed to inspire the young and young at heart with creative, fun and educational activities that bring the Museum to life, from award-winning outreach programs to innovative summer public programs, the Museum makes palaeontology accessible for everyone.
In August of 1884, Geological Survey of Canada geologist Joseph Burr Tyrrell (TEER-uhl) discovered a 70-million-year-old carnivorous dinosaur skull near present day Drumheller. Officially named Albertosaurus sarcophagus (“flesh eating lizard from Alberta”) in 1905, Tyrrell’s discovery was so significant that the Museum opened its doors to the public one hundred years later as the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
Originally intended to serve as a research and scientific facility, plans soon included a large public gallery and display area that attracted over 500,000 visitors in its first year. Since receiving the Queen’s “royal” appellation in 1990, the Royal Tyrrell Museum has become world-renowned for its innovative public education programs, engaging exhibits and ongoing devotion to the science of palaeontology.
Situated in Midland Provincial Park, the Museum is home to approximately 140,000 individual specimens, over 300 of which are holotypes, a term used to describe an individual plant or animal that serves as the basis for the description of a species. Adding thousands of specimens to its collection annually, the Royal Tyrrell spans over 835,000 square feet of the Alberta badlands. The main building is 120,000 square feet, with 45,000 square feet of exhibit space. The ATCO Tyrrell Learning Centre provides an additional 16,500 square feet devoted to Educational Programming. Last year, the Museum welcomed 385,000 visitors, 27,000 students participating in educational programs and an additional 4,000 students who visited virtually through video conference connections to schools across the world.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum houses a range of galleries and exhibit spaces that immerse visitors in the 3.9-billion-year-history of life on Earth. Current galleries include:
• Cretaceous Garden: The ancient Alberta landscape was much different from what you see today. Dinosaurs and other animals lived in a lush, coastal environment dotted with swamps, ponds and marshes. Wander through this recreated indoor landscape, filled with plants found in the fossil record. Highlights include:
• A fossilized dinosaur footprint found only steps from the Museum
• A three-tonne fossilized tree stump, Alberta’s provincial stone
• Two Gingko trees, often called living fossils because they have barely changed in over 270 million years
• Alberta Unearthed: 25 stories of discovery: Features the Museum’s 25 most significant specimens. Highlights include:
• A stunning T. rex named “Black Beauty” with rare darkened bones tinted by
manganese during fossilization. “Black Beauty” is one of only two T. rex specimens ever discovered in Alberta
• A fossilized nest containing eggs of the duck-billed dinosaur Hypacrosaurus stebingeri from Devil’s Coulee—Canada’s first dinosaur egg nesting site
• The braincase of the small, meat-eating dinosaur Troodon that eventually helped to confirm the bird-dinosaur connection
• Lords of the Land: Showcases some of the Museum’s most rare, fragile, and significant carnivores as works of art. Highlights include:
• The partial skull of Atrociraptor, the first of its kind to be found anywhere
• One of the most complete and best preserved Gorgosaurus specimens
• An enormous 13.7-metre long Tyrannosaurus rex
• Devonian Reef
• Alberta’s Last Sea Dragon: solving an ancient puzzle
• Cretaceous Alberta
• Age of Mammals
The province of Alberta is rich with fossils, and every year, hundreds of specimens from microscopic pollen to 10 tonne dinosaur skeletons are brought into the Museum’s collections. Fossil finds are reported from people working in gravel pits, mines, home construction, or simply out for a hike - so if you’re out in the badlands of Alberta, keep your eyes open, you never know who will make the next big find!