Clay Center wants you to 'Be the Dinosaur'

Kenny Kemp
Samuel Slack, 7, of Teays Valley, examines a dinosaur head that's part of the new "Be the Dinosaur" exhibit at the Clay Center's Mylan Explore-atory. The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 31.
WANT TO GO?"Be the Dinosaur"WHERE: Clay CenterWHEN: Saturday through Dec. 31TICKETS: Adults $7.50, children $6INFO: 304-561-3570 or _____CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Clay Center wants you to "Be The Dinosaur" at a new hands-on exhibit that opens to the public Saturday in the Mylan Explore-atory. The kid-centric display features dinosaur bones, a dino dig for the little ones, a toothy Tyrannosaurus head -- perfect for photo-ops -- and plenty of information about life in the Cretaceous period, that age when dinosaurs still ruled the earth.At a special sneak peak for members Sept. 21, R. Lewis Ferguson, the Clay Center's Director of Visual Artists and Sciences, said he was excited about the exhibit."Members have asked us about dinosaur exhibits," he said. "This was something they really wanted."They listened and found much of the exhibit through Eureka Exhibits, a company that specializes in interactive educational installations that integrate video games with more traditional museum offerings like artifacts.
"Be the Dinosaur" has several video game simulations, where visitors can "be the dinosaur," at least virtually. For instance, visitors can control a digital triceratops or T-rex and lead them through a day in the life of one of these giant reptiles.Ferguson said, "The game tells you when you have to eat, when you have to get water and um... well, when to poop." He laughed. "Everybody poops."The graphics of the game are reasonably life-like and comparable to what is found on an Xbox 360 but with simpler controls. It is fairly tame and appropriate for all ages. There's no gore and all the real violence (hey, a dinosaur's gotta eat) is off screen and implied by chomping sounds.During the game, little blocks pop up occasionally to give little tidbits of information about the Cretaceous Period, and when the game ends, players are given suggestions to visit other parts of the exhibit for tips on improving their performance.
For smaller visitors, who might not be able to see clearly or manage the controls on the console, there's a safari jeep simulation that will take them on a short trip around a dinosaur habitat."Be the Dinosaur" is not all video games and flashy graphics, though."We added a lot, too," Ferguson said and pointed to a wall where the outlines of several dinosaurs are painted. Among them is the deadly velociraptor, one of the more vicious thunder lizards featured in the "Jurassic Park" movies.It seems smaller than the movie version.Ferguson nodded and said, "They actually based their velociraptors on the Utahraptor."He's not sure why, although he's still a fan of the movie. Ferguson is a fan of dinosaurs and doesn't think he's the only one.
"Be the Dinosaur" is at the Clay Center through Dec. 31, which Ferguson added is plenty of time for other dino fans to come visit it repeatedly. Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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