The world of vertebrate paleontology has been abuzz over the past week about the pending sale of 12 fossil vertebrate to the highest bidder. What was different about the auctioning of these fossils, compared to other fossil sales, is that they were being sold by a public museum. The San Diego Natural History Museum de-accessioned 12 vertebrate fossils to sell at auction – meaning they would most likely be sold into private collections where they could no longer be used for education and science. Please see my previous post for more information on the significance of these fossils and why the sale of them would have been devastating to natural history museums, professional paleontologists, and our communities.
In this light, the good news just broke that the San Diego Museum Natural History Museum has pulled all of its fossils from the auction. In their official statement, SDMNH states:
“The San Diego Natural History Museum has made a decision to withdraw the 12 fossils listed for sale in the Bonhams public auction scheduled for November 19, 2013 … By withdrawing the specimens from the auction, and in light of the recent interest shown by numerous institutions in these fossils, we will be reevaluating how to proceed. This will allow us to revisit alternative strategies that would allow the fossils to remain in the public trust.”
A large outcry of concern from the paleontology community as well as the general public, has resulted in the preservation of these historically and scientifically significant specimens. Thank you to everyone who joined your voices together to let the SDNHM know the implications of their actions – from the paleontologists who led the charge, to the western Kansas community members who grew up with a love and respect for our natural history. It has been wonderful to see professionals, amateurs, students, museum patrons, and concerned citizens stand on the same side of an important issue.
Chief Curator/Curator of Paleontology
Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Fort Hays State University
** As an aside, although the San Diego Museum has not decided how to proceed with keeping these fossils in the public trust, the Sternberg Museum has let them know that our offer to accept their Charles Sternberg collection is still on the table. **