The find, known as "Dueling Dinosaurs," includes skeletons of what are believed to be a teenage Tyrannosaurus rex and a fully grown Triceratops horridus. The predator and prey were buried together in a single event some 67 million years ago, but there is a ton that remains unknown about the fossils.
According to the museum, the T. rex fossil is the only known 100 percent complete specimen ever found. The triceratops fossil is similarly well preserved.
But the most unique part of the museum's announcement is what it plans to do with the fossils.
The fossils, which remain encased in the sediment from the Montana hillside where they were discovered 10 years ago, will be on display while paleontologists tediously remove the fossils from the sediment.
"We have not yet studied this specimen; it is a scientific frontier. The preservation is phenomenal, and we plan to use every technological innovation available to reveal new information on the biology of T. rex and Triceratops. This fossil will forever change our view of the world's two favorite dinosaurs," said Dr. Lindsay Zanno, head of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. "The way we have designed the entire experience - inviting the public to follow the scientific discoveries in real time and participate in the research - will set a new standard for museums."
In 2021, the museum will begin construction on the exhibit, which will be located on the ground floor of the Nature Research Center. The Dueling Dinosaurs are expected to go on exhibit in the summer of 2022.
The exhibit will be an active research laboratory, where visitors will get to ask questions and learn discoveries as the scientists make them.
"You will learn along with us, as opposed to long after us," Zanno said.
Zanno said the fossils appear to have skin preservation. So scientists are hoping to make new discoveries about the appearance of dinosaurs.
They also say it's possible the fossils will reveal the stomach contents of the animals at the time of their deaths, which happened about 1 million years before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
So what happened to these dinosaurs?
The triceratops has a T. rex tooth embedded in its skeleton; the T. rex skull has a crack. But are those keys to how they died? Or are they completely unrelated?
That's what Zanno and other paleontologists plan to figure out in real-time as museum visitors watch.
"This is a murder mystery 67 million years in the making," Zanno said to our newsgathering partners at the News & Observer. "This is the kind of thing that makes a paleo team drool. It's like a Christmas present sitting in this unopened package, and we get to open it with the public slowly, over time, and have those discoveries revealed."