Dinosaurs might not be the first image that comes to mind when someone thinks of Argentina, unless that someone is Tyler Eddy, project and interpretive planner for the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Eddy, who was born and raised in Weyburn and is the son of Neil and Diane Eddy, just returned from a work exchange between his employer, The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta., and the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feniglio (MEF) in Trelew, Argentina. Both museums are world-renowned for their large collections of dinosaur fossils.
“It’s a great place to work and be,” said Eddy of the Tyrrell Museum. The museum has the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in Canada and is one of the most highly regarded paleontological museum in the world.
“I’m always in awe of our collection of fossils.” Despite being surrounded by dinosaurs, he said his passion for paleontology wasn’t what led him to the museum, but that his fascination with the ancient beasts has grown over time.
Eddy, a St. Dominic Savio School alum from the Weyburn Comprehensive School’s class of ‘96, began working with the museum 10 years ago. He started with an eight-month contract position giving tours, moved into running the summer camp for children and has been in his current position for eight years.
Eddy’s job at the Tyrrell Museum is to design the spaces in the museum to display the information and artifacts in a way that is interesting, engaging and comprehensible for all visitors. His job at MEF was to bring those same skills to Argentina and help them improve their museum, where not many people have his particular skills.
“It’s an impressive facility, especially by South American standards,” said Tyler, who explained that the 14-year-old MEF receives much less funding than the Tyrrell Museum, which was built 28 years ago. Much of the funding MEF receives goes into research, instead of museum management, which is what Eddy was there to help with while bringing more dinosaur information and professional contacts back to Drumheller.
“It’s about reaching out to the public,” said Eddy of the displays he designs at Tyrrell, many of which have interactive features. “I’m making sure people can walk up and it’s intuitive (what is being highlighted).” Intuitive comprehension of the display becomes especially important in paleontology because, often times, what the scientists are trying to show the public are very small differences in species, such as the size of ridges or the shape of the teeth. Eddy said he utilizes different locations, angles and layout methods to make certain parts of different displays pop out for the visitor.
“Interactives are a really big one,” said Eddy. They help ensure all demographics of visitors, from children to seniors to people with disabilities or those who don’t speak English as a first language, can understand it. Interactive tools can also make it more engaging for visitors while simultaneously pointing out the important parts. Eddy said some of the interactive tools provided for visitors in his designs include buttons they can push which will shine spot lights on different parts of the skeletons.
Eddy starts designing the museum spaces using a couple of different approaches. Sometimes he is given a theme by the museum director to work with and build upon and other times he is asked to highlight a specific specimen or skeleton and build a display around that.
“It’s always an adventure,” said Eddy, whose favourite specimen to work with is the Pink Mountain Ichthyosaur.
“It’s cool to work with just because it is so huge,” he said and added that he struggled for a while to find the best way to display the massive dino. The Pink Mountain Ichthyosaur is the largest marine reptile ever found and it was discovered in northern British Columbia, though most of the museum’s displays were discovered in the badlands surrounding the museum itself.
A large part of planning those displays is designing infographics and placing them within the larger display. Eddy said it is important to ensure the information is interspersed with graphics, uses non-scientific language, and that it is broken up into “bite sized” bits and placed in appropriate places throughout the display.
Some of the displays and exhibits Eddy plans are new, but many are ones that are rotated through the museum, which has a large number of repeat visitors as well as new visitors.
“For some people, it’s been a life-long dream to visit the Tyrrell Museum,” said Eddy.
Eddy’s work exchange at the MEF lasted one month, but he took his wife, Kelly, and their two boys, Emery, five, and Eli, three, with him. The whole family spent three months in Argentina.
The trip actually began with a wish for more adventure before the children got older from Kelly and cooperative employers on both their parts. They left on April 30 this year and spent the first month taking some language courses and taking in some of the sites before spending a month in Trelew while Tyler worked. For the last month, the family travelled some more.
“One of our main objectives was to learn Spanish,” said Tyler. “It took a lot of work,” said Kelly. Upon arriving in Argentina, Tyler and Kelly took a two-week language course and the family did a bit of touring for the first month. Neither of them are fluent in Spanish, but after three months immersed in it, they were able to get around without speaking English.
Both Tyler and Kelly said that Trelew was very similar to Drumheller in many ways. The populations in the two communities were comparable, both are tourist destinations and the land around Trelew is similar to that of Drumheller’s and they are both paleontological fossil hotbeds.
On their trips through Argentina, the Eddys also visited one of the last advancing glaciers on the planet, visited La Cueva de las Manos (a UNESCO World Heritage site with painted hands) and many museums and paleontological sites. To read more about the Eddy’s travels and observations and see more pictures, visit their blog at 104degrees.wordpress.com.