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Re: FW: FOSSIL OWNERSHIP



Betty Cunningham wrote:

>If the holotype of Spinosaurus was in private hands, it probably would
>have survived the bombing of the Museum.

Unfortunately, exceptional circumstances like wars are going to mean the
destruction of fossils (and many other items) regardless of if they are in
public or private hands. But, for every fossil lost from public collections
because of WWII bombings, there would be at least as many privately owned
specimens lost to science because the collections were not cherrished by
the decendants of the collector or the collector traded the specimen for
some other and lost track of where it went.

>Does it really seem that bad that some future holotypes might only be
>slightly more difficult to track down when in private hands AND TAGGED.
>(I like the tagging idea-for our digital age this should be no big
>problem).  Possibly having fewer important items in a private collection
>means better care being taken of them in times of troubles such as fire,
>tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, or floods?

It still does not mitigate the inherent instability of private collections.
True, the current owner may be a diligent collection manager with the
considerable means required to properly provide for the collection and an
awareness of the importance of their charges to science and the to the
world. But can the same be said of his heirs?

> It's better than the way the looters in WW2 simply removed something
>from public knowledge.
>Or the way modern thieves have snatched the footprints of Stegosaur or
>the skulls just recently posted stolen from Russia, or from the
>University of ?Michigan? to fill some private collection since some rich
>person wasn't allowed to BUY what he wanted.

Again, you are using exceptional circumstances to justify a more rational
case. (BTW the stegosaur footprints were not in a museum). If art works and
other valuable items are stolen from both public and private collections
(more often the latter), what make you think that fossils would be any less
vulnerable to theft while in private hands?

Cheers, Paul

Dr Paul M.A. Willis
Consulting Vertebrate Palaeontologist
Quinkana Pty Ltd
pwillis@ozemail.com.au