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Re: Ray Triceratops & Other Issues

>From: Martin Tillett <mtillett@umd5.umd.edu>
 >   Stan Friesen brings up the issue of verifiability and that a specimen
 > needs to be available for any qualified person to examine or check if
 > the author of a paper missed something or misinterpreted something.
 > Who are the qualified persons that can get this access to the specimen?

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.

But, I would say that anybody doing a research project that
has legitimate use for direct access (as opposed to access to
published descriptions) should be allowed access.  In short,
I believe this should be left fairly informal.

for instance, when I was getting my degree in biostatistics at
Berkeley I was also, *independently* working on a paleoecology
project (with no connection to the university, or to any
research institute).  On that basis I was able to convince the
curator of the paleontology musuem to allow me to view some
specimens deposited there by Dorf relating to his Carnegie Institute
Special Papers.

[Actually I am *still* working on that project - and the literature
pointers posted here from time to time have helped immensely on

Someday I may even finish it :-)

 > I was most taken by his remark
 > that Public viewing is the *least* important part of what a natural
 > history museum is all about. Less than 10% of the specimens are ever
 > displayed.

I got a bit carried away here.  What I should have said was that
public viewing was a secondary purpose, after preserving specimens
for scientific study.

Promoting public interest is, of course, important, and I strongly
support it.  I in no wise intended to imply that a natural history
museum should NOT display interesting things, only that we need to
remember there is alot more going on there.

 > Once fossil material
 > is in drawers inside of a museum out of view to the public, it ceases to be
 > glamorous.

On the other hand, the specimens on display cannot easily be made
accessible for detailed study, since that would require their removal
from the display, so the worker can study them.  In fact such study
often involves shipping the specimens to other institutions briefly.

Thus, what needs to be done is for the most fascinating specimens to
be displayed to the public - AFTER a plaster cast is made so that
most research study can go on without disturbing the display.

swf@elsegundoca.attgis.com              sarima@netcom.com

The peace of God be with you.