We’re fortunate to live close to the Minnesota Zoo and we’ve taken full advantage of that proximity through the years by spending a great deal of quality family time there. This summer, the zoo is hosting a special, can’t miss exhibit featuring almost life-size animatronic dinosaurs, including a special exhibit of vintage dinosaur toys!
As a 70s Monster Kid, it’s not too surprising that I grew up loving dinosaurs. In fact, as I’ve explained previously, I consider dinosaurs my gateway to classic monsters.
This cool exhibit is titled “DiNostalgia: A Stroll Down the History of Prehistory” and curated by the Zoo’s Director or Guest Experience, Jessica Madole, who is a collector herself. In fact, many of the pieces featured in this exhibit were from her personal collection.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jessica and discuss the exhibit, and her personal love of collecting, at the zoo earlier this summer.
Why Vintage Dinosaur Toys?
While the Minnesota Zoo has featured life-size dinosaur exhibit several times in recent years, the decision to enhance this year’s exhibit with pop culture collectibles came about for practical reasons.
Last year, the zoo’s exhibited giant bugs! And while many of Monster Kids love our radioactive giant bug Sci-Fi movies, the zoo exhibit was a bit more educational in focus and the building was used to display the real-lifel bugs whose giant animatronic counterparts were featured in the display. That left the zoo with a nice covered walkway with small glass-faced displays and a question of what, if anything, they could do with this space for this year’s dinosaur exhibit.
As a collector of vintage dinosaur memorabilia, Jessica had the easy answer: feature examples of dinosaurs in popular culture through the years.
The DiNostalgia Exhibit
The exhibit takes a chronological stroll through the many ways dinosaurs have appeared in mainstream American culture, beginning with roadside kitsch and gas station mascots during the mid 20th Century:
The tour continues with this great display of vintage dinosaur books, many from Jessica’s personal collection:
Each exhibit included a simple but informative plaque to like this one accompanying the multiple Marx toys displays:
And the classic Marx Flintstones toy set:
Jessica explained that the next bit was somewhat controversial, since the King of the Monsters isn’t technically a dinosaur (though the 2014 Legendary reboot says otherwise). Nonetheless, us Monster Kids are always happy to see our favorite atomic-breathed kaiju and the zoo took the opportunity to differentiate the imaginary Godzilla from the historical Tyrannosaurus Rex:
I was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the model paint job and also curious where the model was curated from. Jessica explained that the zoo bought a later model Polar Lights re-issue and had a zoo volunteers assemble and paint the kit. Readers will be glad to hear that I was quick to volunteer for any such future model kit assembly work that the zoo has need for!
Next up, we find a nice exhibit of comics featuring dinosaurs including this terrific copy of Savage Tales from Jessica’s collection along with some Turok and Jurassic Park comics:
As a child of the 1970s, I was thrilled to see the focus on the essential Saturday morning classic Land of the Lost:
Love the vintage Viewmaster cover:
The exhibit continued with a feature on the 1990s ABC series Dinosaurs as well as Jurassic Park which are outside the scope of this blog, but essential to the historical collection the zoo assembled.
As Monster Kids, we are used to living outside the mainstream of popular culture and it’s always a thrill to see the things we love and celebrate get the spotlight. My thanks to Jessica and love of vintage dinosaur stuff for taking the time to give me a tour and for championing this informative and fun exhibit.
Hurry! The Exhibit Ends Soon.
If you live in the area, I highly recommend you pack the family into he car and get to the Minnesota Zoo for this wonderful exhibit — but hurry! It’s only onen through Labor Day.
Ticket information is available on the Minnesota Zoo website.
And lest we forget, the main point of the exhibit is to excite and stimulate the young minds with a love of science and dinosaurs!
It sure worked for my kids! Plus, while they’re exploring and playing, you get more time to reminisce over your favorite dinosaur toys in the DiNostalgia exhibit!