Buffalo, NY – On July 28, a Gorgosaurus fossil, a relative of the T-Rex, hits the auction block in New York City. It’s going for $5 – $8 million. This sale got us wondering, how in the world do you keep a dinosaur, or any other historical specimen for that matter? We took that question to the Buffalo Museum of Science.
When you go to the Buffalo Museum of Science, you meet Stanley. Then, on the third floor, you can meet Geology Joe. He’ll teach you a thing or two about rocks in general, or the ones you bring from home. But this story is about what lies behind this door on the fourth floor.
“Hmm, how do you keep dinosaurs?” Kathryn Leacock, deputy director of the Buffalo Museum of Science, asked. “Well, you have to strengthen your floors, that’s for sure! And that’s it. People don’t know about the fossil material, is it the shear weight of it.”
Leacock points to parts of an Apatosaurus foot as an example.
“It sustained this damage here because it was crashing on itself, on its own weight, so we took it off the exhibition,” Leacock said.
In addition to reinforced floors, Leacock said you’ll need to find a really good metal worker.
“The metal armature that’s needed to articulate a sample, you don’t really think about it,” she said.
Then there’s climate control.
“Depending on where you are in the building, we are able to control it at different levels,” she said.
About half a dozen of these are around the museum. Most are on the fourth floor, where approximately 750,000 items are stored for safekeeping and study.
“And then we have a big one, which we call our air handler, but it’s the main one for the whole building,” Leacock explained.
Cleaning is a delicate job. This happens annually in the museum. Pest control and air filtration keep the specimens we look great at. For shorter taxidermy, it’s as easy as an anti-static cloth without perfume and a Q-tip for the eyes.
“We have a HEPA filter vacuum that has adjustable speed,” Leacock said. “So it’s not like your vacuum at home, and what we do is essentially through a window screen.”
It protects hair or any bedding on the item. For fossils, antistatic clothing does the trick.
“What you don’t want is anything that has piles on it, because the fibers will get stuck in the fossil,” Leacock continued.
With all this TLC, you need passion, and more, as well as education.
“Our collection professionals have a well-learned, in-depth study, set of knowledge and experience that puts them to do the right thing,” said Marissa Wigglesworth, president and CEO of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.
This helps ensure that they are wonderful for generations to come.
“We are here to serve a mission to our community,” Wigglesworth said. “We are here to be a place of entertainment, education, inspiration.”
And over the years, thanks to technology, you may be closer than ever.
“The lighting has changed, so we use LED lights, we don’t use UV lights, so they don’t fade,” Leacock explained.
There’s just one more thing to think about if you decide to keep dinosaurs.
Right now, the museum is opening its doors in a new way with “Collective Live.” There are three initiatives underway so you can see firsthand what’s in the collection, and what goes into managing it. Geology is the study of taxidermy and insects.