Digi-Dinos Blog

Do Belemnites Have Barcodes?

Here is an update on the Dinosaur Gallery work from Nick Toms, a member of the Design Team…

We commissioned 7 models from Bob Nicholls the ‘Paeleo artist’ so that that we can build a CGI recreation of the underwater world and some of the creatures that inhabited it at this time. The creatures we chose range from the gigantic 9 metre fish Leedsichthys to a small, hand sized ammonite and included the top predator Liopleurodon. The photos show Liopleurodon and a squid-like belemnite as the first two test scans.

Andy from the 3D Scanning company GOM in Coventry brought in a Stereoscopic 3d scanning camera. With two cameras at either end and a powerful projector in the middle it projects a very bright light on the model along with patterns of lines that help it to define the contours of the model whilst the two cameras photograph it from a set distance apart. Andy then takes loads of images from all angles around the model and as these are sent to the computer they are processed to build up a very accurate 3d model of the creature.

Once this is done with sufficient detail the computer model is sent to the animators who will plot a simple bone structure into it so that they can then animate the natural movement of the creature as it swims through the Jurassic Sea. To this they will add the skin textures and colours to create the finished footage.

The plan is then to weave all the individual scenes of the creatures into a program that will play and overlap them randomly onto an overhead projection screen through the day to create for the visitor the effect of looking up from the seabed into the Jurassic seas and seeing the creatures who populated them.




Wet as a [Barrow] Kipper

A few weeks ago the project team headed to Barrow-Upon-Soar to get local residents’ views on their village emblem. It’s the Barrow Kipper, or Plesiosaur that was found there in a limestone quarry and was bought by the museum in 1851.  As emblems go, it’s a very distinctive outline of the fossil and is featured in lots of places around Barrow.  It’s on the roundabout, the bins, the flower planters, the benches, on letter heading of organisations and also on the sign for the Parish Council offices on the High Street.

Firstly we set off to get some shots of the roundabout just off the High Street and it began to rain, and then rain, and then rain a bit more.  We really hoped that the weather wasn’t going to put people off speaking to us.  Our first stop was the post office where we found lots of interesting stories.  One man had lived in Barrow for eighty years!  Unfortunately, none of them wanted to speak on camera.  But then someone suggested we try the Barrow-upon-Soar Parish Council office next door.  Sure enough there was the village emblem on the front.

We had an interview with Michael Gilbert who is part of the Barrow-Upon-Soar Heritage Group that are very active and produce brilliant quality publications about the local area.  They also put together a fossil trail that goes around the village.

As the weather brightened up so did our day, we found lots of people who spoke enthusiastically about the fossil found in their village, the fossil trail and about their museum visits.  It was a really interesting day and we all can’t wait to see what the eventual video podcast will look like.


Museum of lively people!

Do you remember last year I wrote a blog about the BBC Programme ‘Museum of Life’?  What do you mean ‘no’?!  Read it here!

Last month in a joint trip with the other part of the Digi-Dinos Project  the team (along with a coach full of local school children and their parents) went to London to see the dinosaurs.  The weather was perfect for museum visiting – very rainy!

A lot of us hadn’t been before and on entering the museum we were all bowled over by how big and noisy the museum was.  The dinosaur gallery was full of very excited school children that marvelled at the sheer scale of some of the fossils.  The moving exhibits got the most attention, especially the T-Rex! 

 We then moved on to do some of the filming in another part of the museum for one of the video podcasts.  Mark, the Natural Science Curator at New Walk had brought with him part of an Ichthyosaur fossil which the Natural History Museum had the other half to.   We went into the Fossil Gallery, a great big space where the walls were covered with all sorts of fossils.  It was like looking at a natural art gallery.  I couldn’t find the fossil we were looking for but Mark found it straight away.  When he put them together it was like seeing two pieces of a puzzle.

 It was a really great day and by the silence in the coach on the way back (everyone was asleep!) everyone really enjoyed their visit.


Snap-shot: Simon Watkins

A new feature to the blog, a quote from a member of the Digi-Dinos project about what they are up to.

 This time Simon Watkins, a member of the design team. He says:

“Creating illustrations to support the Story Sack project has been very exciting. Having the opportunity to work with a story-teller and to witness a story literally being ‘performed’ has been inspirational and helped me to develop a better visual understanding of the characters. It’s also great fun!”


Story Sacks: Sparkly Footprints…

An update from Rebecca Gumbleton, Learning Manager for Leicester Arts and Museums Service on the Story Sacks part of the Digi-Dinos MuBu Project…


The workshop ran at New Walk Museum involving a family learning group from Green Lane Infants.  They attended to test out ideas for the new story about Rutland the dinosaur being developed by our commissioned storyteller, Shonaleigh.  13 children and adults attended the workshop and explored the galleries around the museum trying to look through Rutland’s eyes – what would he like, what would he be scared of – he is emerging as quite a timid character!  The feedback from the young people, their parents and grandparents will help to shape the story and accompanying activities which will be run in the new dinosaur gallery.  The session finished with the young people decorating their own dinosaur footprints – they are the sparkly shapes in the pictures!


Lights, Camera, Action!

We have been working with Leicester based media company Glass Page to create eight video podacasts each about a star object in the gallery.

So far our progress has been like this..

We’ve filmed in the new gallery to do our ‘stock’ shots.  These are the bits of footage of each object in close up that will be used in between the main podcast.  I assisted the Natural Science curator Mark; lay out some of the Rutland Dinosaur’s vertebra.  It was great to see the scale once it was all laid out! 

Roger Mason, who schoolboy who found the Charnia Fossil in the 1950s was also interviewed.  He brought with him his father’s diary, a record of the find.

Most recently the team went to the British Geological Survey in Keyworth to interview Dr Phil Whilby about the work of the Charnia Research Group.  The group research fossils from the same origins as Charnia.  They get huge amounts of liquid rubber to take impressions of the rock surfaces where the fossils are!  They then can make these into replicas to study in the laboratory.  Initially when you look at the replicas you can’t really see anything, but once the light is placed at the proper angle you can really see the detail!

We also got a tour of their store and it was based in their new building called the ‘William Smith Building’ which has been built with all the latest environmental stuff to make it eco friendly.  http://www.bgs.ac.uk/collections/corestore_kw.html




The Digi-Dinos MuBu projects 

Leicester Arts & Museums Service are working with Glass Page, a Leicester based film company, to develop 8 video podcasts that introduce our star objects and their hidden stories from the Dinosaur and Geology galleries at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.

As the galleries are currently closed for refurbishment and re-display, the video podcasts will maintain a presence for the galleries and collections during this time and will also provide additional interpretation for the galleries once they re-open to the public.

The podcasts will each be targeted to different audiences to provide more in-depth content in addition to the more traditional interpretation on view in gallery.

Working with a writer and a illustrator Leicester Arts & Museums are producing Story Sack resources to be used with Early Years, KS1 and family visitors to the new gallery. A story sack is based around a children’s book with supporting materials designed to stimulate reading activities and make shared reading a memorable and enjoyable experience.

The Story Sack will be a museum-led resource that could be used both on and off-site and to be complemented by digital resources to be available online. The online resources are envisaged to act as both an extended learning and marketing tool with user experiences from the sessions to lead to user content postings onto Flickr and social networking sites.



Museum of Life

If you missed it the first time around BBC Two’s brilliant ‘Museum of Life’ is being repeated on Tuesdays 2.35 am.  Its also available on BBC iPlayer if you’re more of a ‘Sleep-a-saurus’ than an ‘Insomni-a-don!’

Courtesy of bbc.co.uk


The episodes follow Jimmy Doherty and the team at a variety of locations to uncover the work that  goes on at that the Natural History Museum.


One of the segments is about Archaeopteryx which is thought to be the link in evolution between dinosaurs and birds.  It is 150-145 million years old, one of the oldest and most primitive bird known.  Watch how it is covered in liquid rubber by conservators!


Archaeopteryx is one of the Natural History Museum’s Species of the day.



If that doesn’t suit then episode one gives you all you need to know about the wonderful world of  ’Worm Charming’.   It’s going to be this summer’s biggest sport.



Fossil Handling Sessions at New Walk Museum

Since the last blog there have been two fossil handling sessions at New Walk Museum in August.  They were drop-in sessions from 11am until 2pm.  Museum Assistant Carrie Ball led the first session which was busy from the start; visitors clearly miss the dinosaurs at New Walk!  There were lots of different people that sat to handle the fossils and to ask Carrie questions about them. 

I took some photographs at the first session.  Sometimes I asked the visitors to pick their favourite fossil for the photo.  The number one choice was a shark tooth which is around two million years old.  It wasn’t the oldest fossil in the session but it caught everyone’s attention!

There are plans to hold more sessions like this until the gallery reopens so be sure to keep at look out.

Raiders of the lost arc(hive)…

 It isn’t long before Glass Page will begin filming the video podcasts about eight objects in the collection.  In the meantime I had a meeting with the senior Natural Science curator at New Walk Museum, Mark Evans.  We were looking for any archive material about the objects, which includes the Barrow Kipper, Glass Page could use in the videos.

We found lots of reference photographs of the objects but also archive photographs.  For example, did you know that the Rutland Dinosaur was on Blue Peter?  Curator at the time John Martin was interviewed by Janet Ellis about the opening of the gallery in 1985.  We found photographs of when Janet opened the gallery and Museum Square is full of people and wide-eyed children (one of which with an ‘I love Blue Peter’ banner!) eager to see the new exhibits.  Sadly we have yet to locate the Rutland Dinosaur’s Blue Peter badge.



Here is our November round up of Digi-Dino news…

Its been a busy month for the Digi-Dinos MuBu project.  Read on to find out what we’ve been up to. 

Spot the Difference!  



The building work has been progressing on the gallery and as you can see from the photos the space has changed a lot.  It will be changing even more before  2011.  The gallery is called ‘The Dinosaur Gallery: Exploring Lost Worlds’. 




‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat…’

Not quite ‘Jaws’ but according to one (sensationalist) source Leedsicthys was as long as two double-decker buses!  As part of our video podcast production we were invited to a lecture held by the Geology section of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society.  Dr Jeff Liston from the University of Glasgow explained the difficulties that geologists have in determining the actual size of the Giant Fish. 

There were also photographs of a recent excavation in Peterborough and most of them featured one thing; rain!  It was an interesting and informative lecture and will no doubt be a great addition to our podcast collection.  Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some video clips on the YouTube Channel soon. 

And Finally…

Following a visit to New Walk Museum recently, MuBu resident writer Rod Duncan has written a great blog with a podcast so have a listen and find out more about the project here. 


A drum roll please…

Our video podcasts are completed and ready to watch!  They were released in the run up to the opening of the Dinosaur Gallery at New Walk Museum, Leicester in September.  The objects featured include:  The Charnia Fossil, Rutland Dinosaur, Barwell Meteorite, Barrow Kipper, New Plesiosaur, Leedsicthys, Ichthyosaur, and an Ammonite. 

 You can watch them through this link:


Recently, the videos have featured on the BBC Big Screen on Humberstone Gate in Leicester.  So if you happen to be in Leicester City centre watch out for them!

It has been really great working on these videos with the team and Glass Page.  I hope you enjoy watching the videos!


Flat Pack Neovenator…

Things are really changing over at New Walk Museum, with the Dinosaur Gallery being prepped for the launch of the new gallery in September.  As part of this, certain dinosaur specimens which have been spotted all over the museum are now being brought back to their new homes in the gallery.  So how was the Neovenator moved from upstairs to the gallery?  See our picture below and our Flickr site to find out.  You can see the Neovenator along with the other specimens in the new Dinosaur Gallery in September.

More pics here!


Pass the Popcorn!

Last week the red carpet was rolled out for the launch of the films completed as part of the project with school children from Leicester.

The screening at Phoenix Square in Leicester was packed out with the film’s stars and their families.

By the smiles in our photos, it’s clear that the films were a great success!


Snap Shot! The Rutland Dinosaur Returns…

Click on our snaps to reveal the return of the Rutland Dinosaur.

The dinosaur is being assembled by curator Mark and Nick Toms of the Design Team.

Not long to go now…


About this Sponsor

Leicester Arts & Museums Service manages six museums sites including New Walk Museum & Art Gallery. New Walk Museum & Art Gallery is situated within the historic New Walk area and the original museum in the city opening to the public in 1849. The museum has been the inspiration for many people including Lord Attenborough and Sir David Attenborough, who pursued their love of art and natural history as a result of spending their formative years as regular visitors to the galleries. New Walk Museum hosts wide-ranging collections spanning the natural and cultural world. A family friendly day-out, displays include Egyptians, Wild Space, World Arts, Fine Art collections and the Dinosaur & Geology galleries due to re-open in 2011.