Museum's new show will be dino-mite!

A NEW exhibition at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery has been 65 million years in the making - and promises to be a monster success.

What is it about dinosaurs that children love so much?

Maybe it's because many of them looked like monsters from their worst nightmares, or perhaps it's the wonderful names; velociraptor; stegosaurus, and best of all, the mighty tyrannosaurus rex.

One man who thinks he knows is Steve Plater, founder and owner of the Dinostar museum in Hull, who recently brought some of his collection of fossils and bones to South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

"Dinosaurs were big and scary, but are all dead. Unlike lions and sharks, kids know they will never actually see one," he says.

Spend a few minutes with the dad-of-three – who set up his museum five years ago, and has taken his collection to schools all over the UK – and you can see he still has a boy-like enthusiasm for all things jurassic, or, more accurately in the case of the T-rex, late Cretaceous.

As part of the Ocean Road museum's 150th birthday celebrations, he was there to offer a taster of what the upcoming exhibition – called DinoMites – will offer.

Starting on Saturday, visitors will be able to go head-to-head with 15 life-size baby and juvenile dinosaurs, including a T-rex, a triceratops and a stegosaurus.

With various hands-on activities, it promises to be an interactive trail through the various ages of the dinosaurs.

But enough of that for now and back to Steve, who first brought out various teeth and claws to show us, then a dinosaur egg, peculiarly flattened at one end.

"I enjoy showing children the artefacts, as it inspires them to learn about a whole range of subjects, such as science," he said.

These were followed by a 75cm-long triceratops fibula (shin bone) which had some of the kids – and their parents – leaning forward with mouths agape.

The latex imprint of a T-rex's footprint – bigger than a manhole cover –also got an appreciative 'Ooooo'.

However, it was the allosaurus skull which stole the day. Similar in build, but smaller than the T-rex, the allosaurus is one of the lesser-known carnivores of the Cretaceous period.

Asked to explain this relative obscurity, Steve replied: "The T-rex has had some great marketing ever since the first one was found over 100 years ago in Wyoming.

"The American museums wanted to have everything bigger and better than the British ones and, as a result, made a lot of fuss over the T-rexes they had."

Jamie Turnbull, six, a pupil at Barnes Infant School in Sunderland, was certainly a big fan of these stubby-armed killing machines, but stoutly declared: "I don't think I would have been scared if I saw one."

His sister, Hannah, admitted she preferred playing with dinosaurs to dolls.

"It's nice to see the bones," said the seven-year-old. "I like the big long tails they had as well."

Mum-of-three Diane Arkley, from South Shields, was along with her brood – Jordan, 11, Josh, six, and Ellie, four – for the day.

Biddick Hall Infants pupil Josh said: "I went to see Walking With Dinosaurs – and one of their tails nearly took my head off!"

After taking a look at the skull of the allosaurus, Ellie added: "I like their big teeth."

Catching the end of the presentation, the museum's exhibitions and events officer Gill Scott said: "There's something about dinosaurs that really intrigues children.

"What's special about the upcoming DinoMites is that it will feature young and baby dinosaurs, so children can draw parallels between the dinosaurs growing up, and themselves.

"It first appeared here in 2000 and attracted 83,000 visitors during the summer period, proving to be one of the most popular exhibitions in the museum's history.

"We hope this one's going to be just as successful."

The exhibition, which is free, opens with a family fun day.

For more information visit www.twmuseums.org.uk/southshields