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Second Thoughts on Sue

> Yes, by the way, I'm happy about the Sue auction's results.  Though at the
> same time, I'm a little worried because this might entice a few thousand
> farmers and unskilled amatures (sp?) to go and scour for anything, and then
> auction it off for big bucks.  Not every museum will have 8 million lying
> around, and because of that, I'm worried....

At the risk of getting roasted, I'm going to expound a bit on this 

When I heard about the Field Museum getting Sue, my initial reaction 
was one of great relief and satisfaction.  Ah , Sue, on display in a 
North American scientific institution for the benefit of 
paleontologists and the public.  Regardless of what I'm about to say 
next, these are still good things, and I'm still happy about them.


There are several things that worry me.  One is that the statement, 
"You can't attach a dollar value to scientifically important 
specimens," is out the window.  Now, we can debate about who said 
that, or would say it, or to what extent it was true, but the fact 
remains that a major American museum has set a seven-million-plus 
figure as the going rate on tyrannosaurs.  That worries me for 
three reasons:  first, that a "going rate" can be assessed for things 
like this, second, that that rate was so high, and third, that a 
museum set the precendent.

By now I'm sure everyone is thinking, "So what?  It was an auction, 
and *somebody* was going to pony up the seven figures."  True, but 
suppose some other person or organization had forked out for Sue.  
Say a foreign entrepreneur who wanted Sue for a hotel or mall or 
mansion, and she went overseas and was never available for 
appropriate study or display.  Then there would have been a lot of 
outrage and indignation, and maybe (just maybe) it would be enough to 
keep such a thing from happening again.  I'm sure that most people 
wiill disagree, but I think that it might have been acceptable to 
"sacrifice" Sue, by letting her get snatched up by a foreign 
collector, in order to raise public awareness of and indignation over 
that sort of thing.  Maybe that scenario is too unlikely or too 
Pyrrhic for you.  *Shrug*

Here's my point:  museums, by and large, just can't afford to fork out 
that kind of money.  I'm worried that an exceptional, heroic effort 
by the Field Museum and the other contributing interests will be 
taken by some to be business as usual.

Also, I work in a museum, and we get enough crackpots trying to 
offload their worn sandstone "dinosaur bones" and concretion "eggs."  
I can just imagine the sort of crap that every museum in the country 
will probably have to put up with on a regular basis, now that people 
know that *museums* will pay millions.

I guess what bothers me the most is that the involvement of such a 
prominent institution will lend legitimacy to a fossil trade that I 
find repugnant.

There's my two cents.  Flame away.

"Evil is wide awake, but we're wider!"

Matt Wedel