16 March 2011

Role model (kits)

"Only the prematurely adult are not hopelessly goofy about dinosaurs."
- Harlan Ellison

Brian Switek asked for examples of people who had been inspired by dinosaurs. He was thinking about more actual skeletons in museums. I've written before that I collected fossils as a kid. But what his question brought reminded me of were not the full-sized mounts, but of things that fit on my desktop.

Not only did I like dinosaurs, I liked building models. I did various sorts; I did a fair number of World War II aircraft. Oh yes, and spaceships. Lots of spaceships. And there were a lot of dinosaurs, too.

I started looking for images of those models, and got myself one nasty case of memory whiplash. In particular, I rediscovered Aurora Prehistoric Scenes. I remembered the Styracosaurus (or "spiked dinosaur" as it was billed on the box) vividly, and how much I loved it. But I had forgotten just how big the series was. The Allosaurus. The cave bear. The tar pit. The giant bird. It all came rushing back.

But my first models were, I think, Lindberg dinosaur kits. Again, I only remembered most of them by looking through Google images, and there were again several more that I'd forgotten. But I never forgot the Ankylosaurus, which I'm pretty sure was the first I had. I remember it was this one, because I recognize the skinny, oval scutes on the back armor and the shape of the side spikes.

And today, you can still buy that very same Lindberg Ankylosaur model kit that I had on my desk. From a modern perspective, those models, particularly the Lindberg models, represent old ideas about dinosaurs. The poses are outdated and wrong.

But you know what? When you're talking about inspiring and generating curiosity, the details don't matter all that much.

I don't think it's any accident that the first dinosaur model I can remember having was an ankylosaur, which remains perhaps my favourite dinosaur.

And Dan Telfer agrees.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a biologist today because of those models. But all those little things add up. While those massive, skeleton mounts or full-size reconstructions are wonderful, a kid's imagination can run wild with much more modest materials.

Additional: “Hello, I’m Scicurious, I’m a Brontophile.”

Photo from here.

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