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Museology II

Okay, got the ball rolling on this topic (before the snow came in and the
university was shut down...).

Some comments and summary so far of the "21rst Century Dinosaur Hall"

Brief comment re: Jonathan Weinbaum's comment about the Yale Peabody being
hopelessly outdated despite $$ and prestige:  Although Yale as an
institution has lots of $$, only a small fraction of that goes to the
Peabody Museum.  Of that, any that goes towards redesigning a dinosaur hall
is money not available for research, upkeep, salaries, etc.  Furthermore, a
major redesign of a museum hall is a huge undertaking in terms of costs and
personnel: there is a reason most museums do so only a couple of times a
century.  (Even the AMNH did not remount most of their large dinosaurs: the
_T. rex_ and _Apatosaurus_'s were remounted, but all the other multiton
dinosaurs were left in their Osborn, Brown, or Colbert era poses).  Of
course, multimillion dollar donations to Yale Peabody would certainly help
them redesign...

Another comment, re: the importance of kids at museums and playing to the
lowest common denomenator (not necessarily the same thing...):  Lowell
Dingus (in _Next of Kin_) points out that although they do have 500,000
school kids coming through the AMNH per year, they also have to serve the
adult audience, 59 percent of which are college graduates.  Education
doesn't stop at K-6 (Kindergarten through sixth grade, for those not up on
American education slang), or K-12, or even K-16 (i.e., through college
seniors).  Many effective displays can function on multiple levels (for
example, next time you're in DC, stop at the Geology and Mineralogy halls of
the National Museum of Natural History).

Themes:  Lots of folks want an emphasis on paleoecology: what critters
(dinosaurian and otherwise) lived together, in what kind of ways.  (The
Denver Museum of Natural History, among others, is organized this way).
Some liked the AMNH's cladistic orientation; other's didn't.  I think the
main opinion of many is that showing the bredth of diversity (as in AMNH) is
to be commended: there are a lot of creatures known from pretty good fossils
who have not been mounted.

(Incidentally, the mount I'd like to see is a titanosaur or two!!).

Display:  The lighting at the AMNH was thought to be an advantage by many.
Certainly some types of exhibits might be damaged by too much sunlight
(paintings, photosensitive minerals, etc.), but overall I like the natural
light of that museum.

Dan Varner pointed out that we should have his paintings on exhibit, which
raises a good point: the early and mid 20th Century saw a lot of paintings
of restored fossil organisms on display within the fossil halls, but there
is less so today.  This despite a flowering of paleoartists in America and

Many pointed out the desire to see real specimens.  In the past real
specimens meant DAMAGING original fossil material (exactly how do you think
exhibit staff were able to get metal poles through specimens, hmm?).  That
has begun to change do to new mounting techniques (in fact, some allow
individual elements to be removed without taking the whole exhibit down,
making it good for researchers as well as general viewers).

Technology: A few bits of new exhibit technology were suggested.  3-D
holograms were one, although these would be sometime off before they are
usable for effective museum displays.  Some tech currently available and
suggested were: live computer cameras linked to the web, so that viewers
anywhere in the world can see the specimens (already done at some zoos, and
the National Geographic _Suchomimus_ exhibit); and laser spots which light
up to highlight key features on a specimen when selected from a list on the
exhibit panel.

Any additional thoughts on themes, particular taxa to be shown, displays,
technology, etc?

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:tholtz@geol.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661