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Re: Ray Triceratops & Other Issues



Stan Friesen wrote:

>The reason some such "restriction" is needed is that each time
>a specimen is handled a small amount of wear and tear occurs
>(from skin oils, rubbing, and so on).  Thus in order for the
>specimen to have a reasonably long lifetime direct access needs
>to be somewhat limited.

I would have to agree with Stanley on this point and the role of Museums in
general.
For instance, recently a friend of mine at the Natural History Museum in
London was given the job of make a 'definative' cast of _Archaeopteryx_.
Before she could start, she had to spent a few weeks cleaning off the
accumulated grime, grease and oil of almost a 100 years of handling. The
real thing is no longer available for general study because it is now too
fragile.

The main function of a museum is as a depository, where specimens are
lodged, uniquely numbered and are available for study.
It is physically impossible to display the vast majority of specimens
because there just isn't the room. Besides, these days multimedia displays
are far more succesful, it is very hard to produce a static display which
holds the viewers attention - a legacy of the "Gameboy" generation.

Another major problem is funding. There isn't the funding available any
more. A number of institutes (e.g. The Natural History Museum in London)
have to charge for entry and are dependent to a significant degree on this
as a source of income. Therefore such institutions rely on major displays
to get people through the doors and these days such displays are primarily
highly visual multimedia shows aimed at the general person in the street.
Money is siphoned into these, expensive displays with little left over for
more detailed, specimen-orientated displays.

Multimedia is definately the way to go. Who knows, soon we might be able to
pet an _Anomalocaris_ or handle an _Opabinia_ in cyberspace, and that can
only be a good thing. However, the danger is that the 'real thing' could be
consigned to a dusty draw, and with it the science of taxonomy.

Chris
(professional invertebrate palaeontologist and museum lover)

cnedin@geology.adelaide.edu.au,   nedin@ediacara.org
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Many say it was a mistake to come down from the trees, some say
the move out of the oceans was a bad idea. Me, I say the stiffening
of the notochord in the Cambrian was where it all went wrong,
it was all downhill from there.