Dinosaur displays in museums can take many forms. Original fossils are shown in glass cases, often presented in the rock in which they are embedded. Complete dinosaur skeletons can be mounted to give a more three-dimensional impression of the animal, and to show its scale and structure. A mounted skeleton is called a reconstruction. There are also displays that show what a dinosaur was like when alive, such as a painting, or a model of a dinosaur set in the environment it would have lived in. This is called a restoration.
The majority of dinosaur fossils are never put on display. They are kept in the storerooms of museums and universities where they are available for scientists. Sometimes this is because they are too valuable or fragile to be displayed in public. Often, it is because they do not look impressive. Only the most spectacular exhibits are put on show. Fossils may also be too heavy or fragile to mount, so some exhibits are made up of copies cast from the original bones.
In some modern museums the preparation laboratories have a viewing gallery so that the public can see the technicians and palaeontologists at work. This helps to show that the study of dinosaurs is going on all the time, and demonstrates the enormous amount of work involved in palaeontology. Sometimes, the public can also meet palaeontologists and ask them questions.
A mounted skeleton with the original fossilized bones, assembled on a sturdy steel framework, has been the traditional way to display dinosaur fossils in museums. They still give a dramatic impression of the scale and structure of these incredible animals. In the past, fossils were covered in a dark, tarry varnish to preserve them, but this is not done today as it hides many of the details.