{Germany} Tristan Otto

December 17, 2015


If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that my favourite museum in Berlin is the Natural History Museum (Museum für Naturkunde). Because, dinosaurs. That’s the way I roll. So you can well imagine the amount of hyperventilating that incurred when this invitation fluttered in to my inbox!

Invitation 16.12

Yes, that’s right, the Museum für Naturkunde was getting a new T.rex skeleton. And not just any T.rex skeleton, a REAL one. Not just a cast, like in many other museums – there are e.g. around 30 copies in circulation of a T.rex skeleton named Stan, who resides at a research institute in South Dakota (you knew that about the casts, right? sorry if I just shattered any illusions…) Tristan Otto, as he is called, is the first original T.rex skeleton in a European museum. And he’s right here in Berlin. And I was invited to come meet him (well, along with hundreds of other lucky people), before he opened to the public the next day. Oh, and when I arrived and gave my name at the door, they just waved me through without checking the guest list. Felt like a proper rock star, lol :)



I even dressed for the occasion. I realised I had a distinct lack of dinosaur themed clothes in my closet (something which may need to be rectified), but luckily there was the necklace MuseumHusband had given me for our recent wedding anniversary, together with a card that read “I love you as much as a T.rex is big. And more. Let’s hunt herbivores together forever.” He’s a keeper, right?


Anyway, enough of the hyperventilating, you probably want to know what went down. As with any museum opening – and I speak from experience – you need to sit through a *lot* of speeches first. You can see from the photo below it was a full house, and the acoustics weren’t great (can you see the guy in the blue hoodie in the middle of the photo? that’s where the speakers were in relation to myself), but there were drinks to keep us going through the speeches and I did manage to catch a few snippets, even being all the way at the back. Museum director Vogel said the museum wants to make natural history exciting – I think they are doing quite well with that already, actually – and Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller referred to Tristan as the pop star among dinosaurs! Referencing, of course, the already mentioned fact that he is the only publicly accessible original T.rex skeleton being shown in a museum outside of the USA. Not only that – although his 157 individual bones are dwarfed e.g. by the around 250 bones of Chicago’s T.rex Sue, Tristan’s head is 98% complete, making it the best preserved T.rex head in the world!



Those skeletons above are not Tristan, by the way. That’s inside the museum’s Dinosaur Hall, where you can see seven other full dinosaur skeletons, including Brachiosaurus Oskar – the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world! So, eventually the speeches were over and people started moving towards the exhibition room where Tristan awaited us. I moved with the crowd, and somehow ended up fairly near the front. We still had to wait a bit longer while the VIP guests got first dibs, but the catering staff started handing out super tasty canapés while we waited which made the time fly past. I mean, standing in line to see a real T.rex whilst eating your body weight in canapés – life could be worse. At one point, I thought ‘The guy standing next to me looks a lot like Ai Wei Wei. Is he in Berlin right now?’ Turns out, yes he is, and yes it was him. He is probably never going to read this blog post, but I would nevertheless like to apologise, Mr Ai Wei Wei, for staring at you. Sorry.

Here we are getting closer – only a couple dozen more people in front of me!


Finally, the moment I was waiting for. And the moment you have been waiting for, no doubt. Enough of the teasing. Here he is. Mr Tristan Otto. 66 million years young!




So how did Tristan end up in Berlin? He was dug up in the US State of Montana in 2012, and later purchased by Danish dinosaur collector (stamp collections are so yesterday) Niels Nielsen. And he wanted the skeleton to find a home somewhere, where it would be studied in depth. He first offered it to the renowned Natural History Museum in London, but they turned him down because apparently they don’t like working with loans. Their loss! Since the Museum für Naturkunde is also an active research institute well known for its dinosaurs (you read the bit above about the seven other dinosaurs, right?), Tristan – who, by the way, is named after Nielsen’s six year old son ended up here. How cool is it to have a dinosaur named after you! I think Jenni would make a great name for a T.rex :)


Nielsen has been quoted to have said in an interview “It would have been a shame to leave the T.rex in my garage”. I couldn’t agree more! Tristan is due to reside in Berlin for the next three years, where he will be intensively studied by the museum’s experts together with international scientists.By the way, someone asked why the skeleton had been painted black. The answer to that is, that it is not painted. Rather, the colour of fossils is determined by the ground where the relevant bones are fossilised. All T.rex specimens from the USA – where Tristan was found – are black. Whereas the other skeletons in the museum’s Dinosaur Hall, which were found in Tanzania, are a much lighter colour as the combination of minerals in the soil where they were buried is different. So now you know :)

Here’s another gratuitous dinosaur photo:


And some cool dinosaur shadows on the ceiling:


All in all it was a great evening, speeches, drinks & canapés, and of course dinosaurs. I am so grateful to the museum for my invitation to the hottest ticket in town. I hope you’ve enjoyed the little preview here, and its whet your appetite to go and visit Tristan yourself. Though if you are a dino fan, you probably don’t need my encouragement to hot foot it to Berlin ;) The exhibition is open to the public as of today (17th December), and is included in regular admission price to the museum. You can find all details on admission prices and opening times on the museum website.

Last, but not least, as we were leaving, we were all given a copy of the next day’s newspaper, along with a 20 page National Geographic special edition print, which takes you behind the scenes at the Museum für Naturkunde!


As it happens, I ended up with two extra copies of the National Geographic booklet, and as a reward for anyone who has made it this far in reading this blog post, I am going to give away my two extra copies! To be in with a chance to win a copy, all you need to do is leave a comment below. As I mentioned above, Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller referred to Tristan as ‘the pop star among dinosaurs’. So, I would like to know from you, what do you think would be Tristan’s No.1 hit if he were in the pop charts? It can be a made up title (dinosaur puns at the ready), or a real, existing song. It’s just for fun. Leave your comment below by 10am Berlin time (GMT +1) next Wednesday, 23rd December, and I will post the booklets to the winners before Christmas. If there are more than two entries, #MuseumBoy will pick two names at random out of a hat. Open world wide.The booklets are in German, so you would get the most out of them if you speak German, but for English speaking museo geeks there are lots of lovely pictures too.

Edit: The Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Russell and Björn – #MuseumBoy picked your names out of the hat, and the booklets will make their way to you :)


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8 Responses to “{Germany} Tristan Otto”

  1. Parseraisin Says:


    Tristan looks amazing! I think he’d top the charts with a cover of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.

    I have a five year old daughter who informed me a few weeks ago that she “needs to know everything, EVERYTHING” about dinosaurs. We’ve been trolling the stacks of the Stadtbibliothek in Charlottenburg ever since.

    I think we’ll visit the museum next week – she’s been asking for a visit. Thanks for the post, very informative!


  2. Russell Dornan Says:

    Hi Jenni,

    Great post! I can’t wait to see Tristan in Berlin. My favourite natural history museum just got even cooler!

    Love this giveaway. I saw the pic of the National Geographic and thought “ooh, how would I get one?” Fingers crossed!

    I think Tristan would release the song “Till The World Ends” by one Britney Spears. I can picture Tristan belting the tune out like a diva towards the end of the dinosaurs’ reign, losing himself as the beat drops:

    “See the sunlight, we ain’t stopping,
    Keep on dancing till the world ends!”

    Bis bald, Tristan!



  3. Maren Says:

    Hi Jenni,
    thanks for the post – really interesting to read about the opening. Great photos, too!
    If Tristan was a rock star, he’d have to do a version of T-Rex’s Get it On. Or any Dinosaur Jr. song – maybe a whole remake album? Problem is though that with his short arms he’d have such a hard time playing guitars, keyboards, drums, etc. – but I’m pretty sure he’s got s very impressive voice!
    Cheers, Maren


  4. Barbara Says:

    Garantiert “Children Of The Evolution” unter dem Künstlernamen “The Ultimate T-Rex”!


  5. Julia Says:

    Hi Jenni,
    what a nice post!
    I love the Natural History Museum! I’m going to go see Tristan tomorrow, can’t wait.
    I would imagine him singing “Back in black“ by ACDC.
    Greetings, Julia


  6. Björn Says:

    Tristan is my new neighbor coz I live right opposite of the Naturkundemuseum. I had a chance to visit him on the morning after the big opening ceremony, during an instagrammers event. Check out Instagram and the hashtag #berlinzeigtzähne. The way Tristan seems to scream around in Saal 4 of the Naturkundemuseum reminds me of Axl Rose… So I say, Tristan’s most famous hit song would be “Welcome To The Jungle” from Guns & Roses.

    Would love to get the National Geographic special edition. *Fingers crossed*

    LG, Björn



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