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"The Burke's Bare Bones"
The Burke Museum's collection and curator are under investigation:
The Burke's Bare Bones
Uncertain documentation prompts an investigation of the fossil collection at
the University of Washington's natural-history museum.
by Roger Downey
For more than three years, the official museum of the state of Washington
has been refusing to answer questions about the source, nature, and legality
many items in its collection of more than 42,000 fossils, ranging in size
from field mouse to whale. Last week, at long last, the University of
Washington administration moved quietly but decisively to blow the murk away
Burke Museum. Fossil experts from three institutions in Western America were
invited to Seattle to look over the Burke's collections and report whether
the objects in question appeared to be what they were labeled to be, from the
areas they are claimed to be from, and, properly labeled or not, whether they
were collected legally in the first place.
These are not questions often addressed to scientific institutions supported
by tax dollars. But as Seattle Weekly disclosed two years ago (see "Another
UW Skeleton," April 2, 2003), scientists with Montana's Museum of the Rockies
and the Bureau of Land Management were openly airing suspicion that the
Burke's curator of vertebrate paleontology, John M. Rensberger, had collected
specimens from terrain under their mandate without getting the necessary
permit. When they began to look into the matter, UW administrators discovered
that the problem went deeper. Not only were there specimens in the
collection for which paperwork was missing, many others lacked even an
where and when they were collected, and still others were labeled as coming
from places where it seemed impossible that they could have been found.
<SNIP of lots of interesting text>
The 2003 article is at: