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real vs. fake (was: Sue pictures online)



From: chris brochu <cbrochu@fmnh.org> 

>I am not aware of any stats, but I do have some personal experience with 
>this.  I've personally seen people look at a mounted cast, gasp with awe, 
>and then shrug their shoulders and walk away when they realize it's a 
>replica. 

People do tend to be disappointed when they find out some mounts are
replicas. I think a lot of this stems from that they think we're being cheap
by not showing them the real things. Someone gave the fine art example. If
you advertised a Van Gogh exhibit and once in the door your paying visitors
discovered they were all replicas, they'd be pretty annoyed. It's like false
advertising. 

I have also found that this is a knee-jerk reaction. When a volunteer
explains exactly WHY we use casts the public becomes understanding. The
prime reason I give them is safety for the real fossils. I walk then over to
the real fossil mounted Corythyosaurus and show them what it takes to hold
up the bones and how sometimes the fossils need to be drilled, patched and
otherwise altered for display. I also point out that the fossils can also be
damaged during the construction because sometimes accidents happen, no
matter how careful you are(that's another story I'm sure some of you know).
I tell them we're keeping the real ones safe in the collections on future
generation's behalf. At the end of my little impassioned speech they are
asking me WHY we keep mounting real bones at all!

Of course I can always walk them over to the paleo lab and let them touch a
real dinosaur bone. That's a real treat, because museum mounts are usually
off limits to touching!  Real fossils somewhere in the exhibit, either
safely under glass or a rib scrap to touch, do need to be a part of every
museum. 

From: Betty Cunningham <bettyc@flyinggoat.com> 

>How does one keep dust off the real thing if it's really really big and 
>on display to the public?   
>I remember going to the Peabody years and years and years ago and seeing 
>the tan, fuzzy Apatosaur and Triceratops. 

Ah, the fake ones get just as dirty! We clean ours after hours and all we
need is free pizza, a radio, a cherry picker and long polled dust brushes.
It's actually fun and we usually get lots of volunteers. I have a collection
of pictures of various museum staff and volunteers in compromising positions
with dinosaurs and long handled brushes! :)

-Sherry





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