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Re: Museology

>Second, let's give the paleolife artists their due.  They are right
>there on the cutting edge of dinosaur science and work in close
>consultation with paleontologists in preparing their displays.  (So
>shelve those fears that the artists would make the scientists take the
>back seat. :)  )

      Giving the laregly conjectural artistic interpretation of the animal
the front seat to the evidence it is based on is exactly what you are
advocating.  There is still going to be a great deal more interpretation and
subjectivity involved with a restoration then with showing the actual fossil
bones.  Look at Greg Paul, Mark Hallet, James Gurney, Brian Franzak, and
Doug Henderson's Tyrannosaurus rex restorations.  All are cutting edge, all
are plausible and give a sense of how the living animal MAY have looked, but
they all look different.  Which would you choose to emphasize in the
exhibit?  The science can only take a restoration so far.

>Finally, let's admit that skeletons do not walk around without their
>muscle tissue and organs, etc., so deploying them that way is of
>course far beyond conjecture -- it's fantasy, and a bizarre relic of
>nineteenth century sensibility to boot.

         Are you saying that 19th century scientists actually beleived the
that dinosaurs walked without tissue and organs?
I think everyone today and then is fully aware that dinosaurs did not walk
around without thier skin.  Skeletal reconstructions exhibit the actual
evidence that scientists (and artists) use to reconstruct the living animal
and show how the bones (probably) articulated.  These are fascinating to
look at in thier own right.  I could use  your reasoning to say that
life-size models propogate the fantasy that dinosaurs stood perfectly still,
or that robotic dinosaurs propogate the fantasy that dinosaurs stood in one
place making the same movements over and over again.
        Life models would in fact be propogating fanatasies of thier own;
namely that the dinosaur in question has exactly the color scheme and soft
anatomy structures seen in the model, which are largely the (hopefully)
plausible creation of the artist.  No one looking at a dinosaur skeleton
seriously beleives that dinosaurs walked around as skeletons, but are more
likely to look at a model without knowing which of the soft anatomy
interpretations are completely conjectural.

>What people really want to know
>is what the animals looked like.  I think they'd readily forgive the
>conjecture in order to walk away with a real sense of the animals as
>living, breathing things.

      Thats ALL anybody who visits the museum wants to know?  I'd speculate
that some museum goers want to LEARN something, not just have images to feed
thier imagination (although subordinate scale models and paintings can
provide).  If they don't, it doesn't hurt to try to make them.  if they just
want visual stimulation, they can go see a movie.

>It's virtually colloquial that many people think that dinosaurs are
>"just a bunch of dusty old bones in a museum."

      Really?  That should make museum attendence at AMNH, DMNH, and other
museums with walking skeletons take a nose dive.  An awful lot of people do,
and always have, enjoyed looking at those dusty old bones.

> You realize
>of course that the skeletons are not displayed as they are for study
>by paleontologists.

    They are not neccessarily on display for people who don't care about
anything skeletal morphology either.  It seems like you want to polarize
everbody either as a stodgy, well educated, technical detail obsessed,
unimaginative scientist or a ignorant red-neck museum visiting family with
screaming kids who want to be entertained and go home.  As strange as it may
seem, a lot of people go to the MUSEUM to learn something, not just be
entertained or play make beleive.  The movies and amusment parks can provide

>In any event, if you want to see the details, you'd probably prefer
>that the skeleton be displayed disarticulated with the most important
>features displayed front and center, no?

        Maybe.  The best specimens are often the ones on display; how many
specimens of a given dinosaur do you think a museum has?  Just look at
Tyrannosaurus rex.  There aren't all that many good specimens, and many are
on display.  If I wanted to get a sense of how the living animal looked, I
can also lend a few more calories to my imaginitive brain cells and picture
skin and muscle directly on the skeleton; perhaps glancing at the little
scale model next to it for some help.
       P.S. What's wrong with the American Museum's T.rex feet?

LN Jeff