Friday, February 13, 2009

Should fossils be sold?

The front page story in today's Arizona (Tucson) Daily Star raises the question again of whether it's ethical to sell fossils. It was prompted by the loan of a woolly mammoth and woolly rhino skeletons [right] to the Arizona Geological Survey for public display by a Russian museum that sells these and other fossils to pay for their operations, expeditions, and research.

You can find at least two other mammoths for sale at the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase that has filled this city for the past two weeks with buyers and sellers of virtually everything geologic.

It's also no secret that buyers from major public museums from around the country are here looking for specimens to add to their collections.

This is a debate that has raged for years about where you draw the line. How do museums keep the doors open as government fund diminishes? We have the new reality here in Tucson that the UA Flandreau Science Center, home of a spectacular mineral museum, closed its doors to the public last week due to state budget cuts.

There are no easy answers here.

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