SUE, The T.rex’s New Suite Review – An updated SUE in a New Home

Sue's world, Photo: B.Keer

This is a story about SUE, the world’s biggest, best preserved, and most complete T. rex, which had a prominent place in Stanley Field Hall for the past eighteen years.  During those years “they” delighted visitors entering the museum.  But this had always been a “temporary” home for SUE.  Now, just in time for the holidays, SUE has been relocated to her new home, a specially designed suite in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.

SUE before and after comparison (c) Field Museum

SUE arrived at the Field in 1997 and was unveiled in 2000.  Since that time researchers have learned more about SUE and the world in which they lived. Note that “Since we don’t know SUE’s sex, we refer to SUE as “they” instead of “she.” “

SUE skull (c) Field Museum, photo by Martin Baumgaertner

“We’re excited to finally complete our decades long plan to put SUE in a proper scientific context alongside our other dinosaurs and offer an experience that really shows off why SUE is widely considered the greatest dinosaur fossil in the world,” says Field Museum president Richard Lariviere. The new suite is 5,100 square feet is bigger than a professional basket ball court.  The interactive displays are captivating and exciting. The narrated light show highlights the bones on SUE’s skeleton, revealing everything from healed broken ribs to a jaw infection that might have ultimately killed the dinosaur. I liked the words on the wall that accompanied the spoken word.

SUE in new suite (c) Field Museum, photo by Martin Baumgaertner

“SUE’s skeleton is so complete and so well preserved, it’s been a treasure trove for scientists. Studying it has shown us everything from how fast T. rex would have been able to run to how quickly a baby T.rex grew up,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions. “The light effects will let us point out the details that make SUE one of the world’s most important scientific finds.”

Turtle shells, Photo: B. Keer

To reach SUE’s new home I went to the second floor, through the hall of extinction and through an ancient forest and eventually found myself surrounded by creatures that have roamed the earth throughout history, from single-celled organisms to our extended human family. This space houses a variety of fossils, animated videos, and hands-on interactive displays that tell the story of evolution, the process that connects all living things on Earth. The videos were captivating.

Captivating video, Photo: B.Keer

After a good look at the Elizabeth Morse Genius Hall of Dinosaurs where we could push a button to hear a dinosaur sound and touch a huge bone, getting close and personal with more than a dozen of the biggest creatures in our history.  This experience was amazing but an even more impressive display greeted us as we finally reached our goal- SUE’s suite.

Sue found Sue. Photo: B.Keer

The SUE story was told in many ways: photos, cases of fossils, games, a light show, and much more.  I was drawn to the photo of Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990 during a commercial excavation trip north of Faith, South Dakota. The fossil skeleton of SUE is 40-foot-long and 90-percent-complete.

Sue’s Gift Shop, Photo: B.Keer

Hendrickson spotted a few large vertebrae jutting out of an eroded bluff and followed her hunch that there were more beneath the surface. In the end, it took six people 17 days to extract the dinosaur’s bones from the ground where SUE was discovered. Now the fossil skeleton of SUE is 40-foot-long and 90-percent-complete.

In SUE’s world, Photo: B.Keer

Enhancing the displays of SUE’s world were fossils of creatures that lived at the same time, including Triceratops, small mammals, and fish, including: Megatherium, a giant ground sloth, the Tully Monster, discovered in Illinois and our state fossil, and a model of Lucy, a 3.2-million-year-old hominid

Multimedia show, Photo: B.Keer

I was amazed watching T. rex in motion as the media experience recreated South Dakota 67 million years ago.  And SUE is new and “improved”. Although the largest and most complete T. rex specimen, SUE received scientific updates in 2018. Currently there is a more accurate picture of how a T. rex skeleton should look, including where SUE’s gastralia fit in. Resembling a second set of ribs in the belly, gastralia may have helped T. rex breathe.

Go see the new old SUE- You will love here.


SUE suite animations (c) Field Museum

More information at Field Museum SUE

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