[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
News: Worries over display of Archaeopteryx No. 10
From: Ben Creisler email@example.com
In case this news story has not been mentioned yet:
Museum draws flak over display
Critics fear private facility can't properly care for rare
By Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
December 2, 2005
A plan to display one of the world's best-preserved
specimens of Archaeopteryx - the earliest known birdlike
animal - in a small, privately owned Wyoming museum is
drawing fire from paleontologists.
Some critics say the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in
Thermopolis lacks an adequate security system as well as
the skilled workers needed to properly care for the
precious 150 million-year-old fossil.
Others say there's no guarantee that the nearly complete
skeleton will be preserved for posterity or be available
for future study.
"There's nothing preventing it from being sold again in
the future and then being removed from the scientific
arena," said Mark Goodwin, assistant director of the
Museum of Paleontology at the University of California,
"In the eyes of professional paleontologists, it's not a
proper repository," Goodwin said.
Only 10 of the feathered Archaeopteryx (ark-ee-op-tur-ix)
specimens have been found. The Thermopolis fossil comes
from limestone deposits in Bavaria, Germany.
The magpie-size skeleton is described in today's edition
of the journal Science. Features in its skull and feet add
new evidence to the widely held idea that birds descended
from carnivorous dinosaurs.
The study's three authors include Burkhard Pohl, a former
veterinarian who founded the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in
1995. The center's 12,000-square-foot exhibition area has
more than 200 displays, including about two dozen full-
size mounted dinosaur skeletons.
Pohl brokered the deal that will bring the prized fossil
to Thermopolis in a few months.
The widow of a Swedish collector found the fossil after
her husband died in the late 1970s, Pohl said Thursday in
an e-mail message. Pohl located a donor willing to buy the
limestone slab and put it on permanent display in
Pohl said Goodwin's concerns about the fossil's future are
misplaced because the sale agreement includes a guarantee
that the Archaeopteryx will remain in a museum forever.
"In the event that the Wyoming Dinosaur Center should
cease to exist, it is agreed that the specimen will be
placed in another public collection," Pohl wrote.
It took more than a year to seal the deal, and the new
owner wishes to remain anonymous, said Scott Hartman, the
center's science director.
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is not revealing the selling
price, but a less-impressive Archaeopteryx fossil sold for
$1.3 million in 1999, according to Science.
Ken Carpenter, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of
Nature & Science, said he knows Pohl and has visited the
"The people in Thermopolis basically are gobbling it up
because it gives tourists another reason to come to
Thermopolis," Carpenter said of the center. The north-
central Wyoming town, population 3,200, is best known for
its hot springs.
"I guess my only concern with the specimen going to
Thermopolis is that the security is not all that great,"
Carpenter said. "And the chances of it being stolen, I
think, are very high."
Hartman said the center plans to "completely overhaul" its
security system before the Archaeopteryx goes on display.
"There are valid concerns that need to be addressed," he
said. "We're going to do our best to address these
concerns, and I hope our colleagues will see that."
Berkeley's Goodwin, for one, remains skeptical.
"There's a community of people who ride the coattails of
paleontology for profit," he said. "And that definitely
applies to Pohl."