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Private Collectors....a defence
I would like to add my two cents to something I see often on this list.
Private collectors seem to be getting a real bum rap by the academicians
I would like to point out that Barnum Brown and Sternberg were private
collectors, they found, excavated and sold vertebrate materials. Though most
of these specimens ended up in large institutions that now serve as permanent
repository, they were collected by private individuals paid only through the
sale of collected material. There are several outfits today that also serve
as a primary means of excavation and preparation of materials, that are then
sold to both the scientific community and to private collectors. The
scientific community often receives a fair portion of these specimens...hey
how bout _Bambinoraptor_? (prime example).
Also most of us with leases in the vertebrate rich formations of Wyoming
and Montana often have to pay a land owner for access to lands. These
ranchers protect sites and also aid excavations with use of personal large
machinery. Are they wrong for charging us to make "improvements" to their
land? I can think of several local fossil collectors that will only sell
their rare and important (relative depending on ones perspective of important
im sure) specimens to professional institutions. Most large specimens, and
often small ones also, ultimately end up in a professional institution at
some point. It seems that over time (a generation or two in some cases) a
good deal of donations are made to institutions from collectors, or
collectors relatives once an estate is liquidated. I have known two
professional institutions who have received wonderful material because of a
donated bone collectors collection. I have also know institutions to turn
down valuable specimens because they don't have the room, or the particular
interest in the material being donated (now that seems a crime...kinda
hypocritical of us)?
I would warn that the bitter resentment of the academician
(generalization) towards private collectors has burned too many bridges that
would have lead to donations, or relatively cheap material. Remember, for
every hour in the field collecting, and private collector spends upwards of
ten hours in the lab preparing and preserving the collected materials. When
an Oligocene skeleton is collected and prepared by a private and then sold to
an institution at a specific cost. The institution is paying for collection,
liabilities, preparation, materials, and "hunting" time. These costs would
have otherwise been incurred by said institution.
Several private collectors take exquisitely detailed locale information,
and publish in peer reviewed journals the information necessary for
population demographics. Is it so bad that they are recuperating costs
through the sales of fossils? All of us know all to well, there are few jobs
within the field of paleontology. Grants are small and scarce, departments
are limited in funding, positions available going extinct, replaced by
something deemed more important by the administrations of large institutions.
Ever faced a budget cut? Im sure you have. Let us ease up a little eh?
Sorry to rant, but I feel strongly about this issue. I have seen
professional men degrade private collectors a few too many times (the same
men, and women, that have recently purchased a specimen useful to their
research that would have otherwise been lost to errosion).
The academicians are not the only ones to blame, that much is for certain.
Commercial collectors have done damage to the paleontological community,
lets not hold the grudge. Blame falls equally upon the shoulders of us all,
academic and commercial alike. Can we put aside these prejudices and work
together? Outside of the closet? Thanks for listening (or rather reading)
my argument....commentary is greatly appreciated, on or off list.
(this is my opinion, not necessarily that of my institution)