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Touchy museums (was Re: Paleo-Conference in Benevento)

Luis Rey wrote:

> I have never come across an institution or country
> anywhere in the world that doesn't allow photographs of public exhibitions of
> fossil specimens. Maybe I'm wrong.

It may be annoying, but it isn't unheard of.  The touring "Jurassic Park" 
(such as the one closing down this weekend at the Lawrence Hall of Science in
Berkeley) routinely prohibit photography, although the venues will sometimes 
have a
prop or model outside of the exhibit proper that can be photographed with 
In my opinion it's silly, really, and I'm speaking as a docent who was charged 
enforcing this policy in the past myself.  The material in these shows is mostly
either fossil casts that one can see elsewhere (such as the _Giganotosaurus_ 
or copies of movie props.  I don't see the point of prohibiting photo 
in these cases.  Wouldn't Dinofest be a drag if you couldn't take photos?

Some museums will allow pictures to be taken, but prohibit the use of flash
photography, or even tripods.  On the plus side, 1000 (or higher) ASA film can
sometimes help one get shots off in such cases, though the results can be
disappointing.  One museum I went to in Japan (featuring old artwork, not 
actually posted signs prohibiting photography or drawing of any kind.  Some 
are very touchy about these things!

I certainly prefer when there is free photographic access to fossils and 
as long as there is adequate security.  When this privilege is denied, I at 
want to be able to buy postcards, posters, and exhibit catalogs.  Needless to 
this would not always be good enough for an artist like Luis Rey, who would 
need to see and photograph mounts from a variety of angles.  At the same time, 
I do
understand the need for security.  I am glad that the Berlin _Archaeopteryx_ is
safe, and that there are good casts around as substitutes.  I don't want 
anything to
happen to _Scipionyx_.

With specimens that are not rare or delicate (or with casts), the occasional
touchable display or fossil touch cart is often very popular with the general
public.  At Walt Disney World in Florida, you can actually  _climb on_ a number 
dinosaur skeleton casts in faux "matrix" at the "Bone Yard" in Disney's Animal
Kingdom!  Okay, it's a far cry from _Scipionyx_ --and I don't want Skippy ever 
to be
that accessible -- but it's a very different spin on how to display dinosaurs.
Admit it, you'd like to climb on a cast of _T. rex_ or _Triceratops_, wouldn't 
Hey, let's put up some climbing walls that represent geological strata, studded 
fossil casts.   %^)    Hands on, baby!


------Ralph W. Miller III

"Welcome to the Louvre."
"Is it OK for me to take pictures?"
"Yes, you may take pictures."
"Great!  I think this smirking lady over here would look nice in my rumpus