You don’t always expect to stumble across a herd of full-size dinosaur statues when taking your Sunday morning stroll around the park, right? Well, at least in most parks you certainly don’t. Crystal Palace Park, however, seems to be a totally different story.
Back in the 1850s, the very first life-size dinosaur sculptures were created and placed inside Crystal Palace’s namesake park. They’ve proudly stood their ground ever since (yep, 170 years) and have become a beloved part of the local neighbourhood. Well, those very same dinosaurs have had an exciting digital transformation and are now available to view online for the first time ever. That’s right, you can now get up close and personal with the dinos without even having to leave your sofa.
The new interactive 3D models have been created by Historic England, in collaboration with the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. The project was backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who stepped in to save the dinosaurs from going extinct (again) earlier this year.
Digital scans were carefully carried out to create these photogrammetric models, which have taken around ten months to complete. The original sculptures have become extremely fragile over the years (something myself and the dinosaurs have in common) and are in need of some restorative work. Having the interactive models available means that more people can have access to the dinosaurs, without disrupting and causing more damage to the vulnerable statues. The in-depth, digital scans will also showcase the exact work that needs to be done to help restore the sculptures to their (tricera)top-notch condition.
The original Grade I-listed statues were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins back in the 1850s – just a mere decade after the word ‘dinosaur’ had been invented. Hawkins is thought to be the very first sculptor to have attempted full-scale, three-dimensional models of prehistoric and extinct creatures, and he based his creations on fossil remains.
A lack of information being available at the time means that just four of the twenty-nine figures are technically dinosaurs, and instead there are a whole host of ancient mammals, amphibians and flying reptiles among the collection. The models are known to have some inaccuracies but regardless, are still considered as an important moment in the history of science.
Simon Buteux, Partnerships Team Leader at Historic England, said: “The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were a milestone in the public outreach of science when they were first created, and they still have admirers near and far… Our new models will let even more people get to know these wonderful prehistoric beasts. The scans will also help us to better understand the sculptures’ conservation problems and aid with their restoration.”
You can check out the interactive 3D models here.