Category Archives: Museums

Gearing Up

The first of my large cases came in last night. Trying to figure out how to make a museum mobile isn’t terribly difficult, but finding things that you can use to actually do it isn’t terrible easy. After searching the internet and countless hours of review grazing and product specs reading I decided to give this one a shot. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, so I resigned to have it in my ebay watch list all summer, and wait. Finally went on sale this past week, for a $100 and FREE shipping which when compared to Amazon’s and others $25 shipping was part of the deal.

Another neat thing about indiegogo (besides getting the option to keep funds if you don’t make your goal) is that donations rendered via paypal immediately go into my paypal account and I can USE them. Which is how I got this case. So your donations have already been put to good use. I also ordered all the business needs and all the small perks and a few of the shirts. They are slated for a delivery around the 9th but who knows.

This case is actually much better than I had anticipated, which is a pleasant surprise. It is essentially two units that are stackable and latchable. The top acting as a lid for the bottom. There is also a bonus lid in case you want to carry only the bottom, or you need to take them apart for better spatial maneuvering. The pictures below are already up on the Paleo Porch facebook page, but it’s worth sharing on here for a broader, less facebook oriented, curious public.

 An extend-o handle and luggage wheels make this a nice little traveling piece. Even when the wheels inevitably eat it on a curb, the whole thing weighs under 20 pounds empty, and the resin replicas won’t add too much to the overall dificulty of packing the items into the library or lecture Hall. Everything latches down pretty streamlined so nothing should get caught on anything, but this is life.

 I really like the tacklebox like action of the top case. All together this unit is about 38 inched high, a foot and a half long and about a foot deep. Plenty of room to house teeth, claws, and dinosaur eggs. Especially since the dividers can be moved around. The bottom unit houses a shelf, and then is empty space providing amble room for the scaled down skulls and larger pieces like the Archaeopteryx and pteranodon pieces I have on my list.

So, there you have it, the fist official purchase with crowdsourced funds. I was so impressed with the quality that I have ordered another one to take advantage of a discount offered by the ebay store and the still free shipping. So I will have two to start out with, at the cost of 1.5 and saving $50 on shipping. All of which gets funneled back into the replica purchasing fund. This excited about an empty box with latches (it is rather shiny and official looking) image when I start getting the fossils in and getting to post about them. 
                                   
I will be posting about the businessy and perk things as soon as they come in so be watching here and/or on facebook for the next exciting update of things that are going on in the world of creating a mobile mini museum! 
*For Full Disclosure: this is actually a traveling makeup case. It even came with a free mirror! So, if you are looking for one of those for your business or your travling theatre/one act play, it’s not a bad purchase, lol. Originally $170, I got 2 for $206. *

Collision of Worlds

If you have read (or will read) the first entry of this blog, you know (or will know) the story behind The Paleo Porch. A great many of you may have already made the connection with the Have Bones Will Travel slogan, too. But in case you haven’t, or maybe want to understand how circuitous my thoughts run, here is a brief rundown.

It’s Catchy. I mean, it is really catchy, that’s why it’s been used over and over again in popular culture. From the simple beginnings of a gunman for hire to a Fractured Fairy Tale in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The latter was a new take on the Puss in Boots fairytale. Two of the items included, “Have Boots Will Travel,”  and “Have Spoon Will Travel.” Have Bones Will Travel is also a section of Yale’s Medical School, that shows up on google searches as beginning in 1996. “Have Fossils Will Travel doesn’t work on account of fossils having too many syllables.”

It’s part of our culture. Our shared television culture, that is. Most of the children that attend my workshops have no idea who Richard Boone or Paladin was–their parents might, and their grandparents usually all do. A few even know of the history behind Paladin’s pseudonym. Paladins being the Twelve Peers and warriors of Charlemagne. Which for me is even better because it ties into one of my favorite songs: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner by Warren Zevon. Roland and Van Owen coming from some of the earliest French literature in the Song of Roland. In the song, Roland, a mercenary, is double crossed by Van Owen another gun for hire. The trope appears again in the movie version of The Lost World (Jurassic Park II) Where Roland, the great white hunter is thwarted by Nick Van Owen, a documentary filmmaker and environmentalist, so in a Rube Goldbergian sort of way, it connects back to dinosaurs and fossils.

Roland
Van Owen

Replacing the iconic chess knight of silver with a dino-knight, just looks cool. The paralophosaurus is pretty iconic and still offers a more interesting profile than the T-Rex.

Back to the show: Have Gun Will Travel was never a favorite, but I liked it well enough. I also liked Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza. On Sunday afternoons if the weather was right, I could pick up channel 55 out of Houston. The Tube, as it was called showed a marathon of old westerns: Rawhide, The Rifleman, and those mentioned above. The thing that drew me back to Paladin when I was creating this…thing…was his duality.

At his hotel in San Francisco Paladin is a wealthy playboy who enjoys the best of everything. Once he takes a case he shifts into “field mode” a completely different uniform and modus operandi. It’s very similar to real paleontology. Back at the University or Museum Lab–usually in town far away from the field, is a completely different world than the field work. Just ask anyone that does it.

Finally, I remember how smart Paladin was. He quote classic literature, poetry, etc whenever the need arose, to prove a point, or frame a situation. It showed that in a television show that was idolizing the single epitome of masculinity protecting , serving, helping, etc. etc. that it was still okay to be smart. So, when all these things slammed together in my head one night I created this persona for the best way to brand my talks and my little traveling museum. So, as Paul Harvey said, Now you know the rest of the story.

Have Bones Will Travel

Stepping out into the well tested waters of crowd funding for science. It’s at least well tested for others, I have never done it. But, as part of the indiegogo project, I wanted to attach it to this blog as well as the Paleo Porch facebook page.

When I was working in the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab at Lamar University we had a collection of replicas and fossils that we could take to the local elementary classrooms to give a little workshop. Now that I am no longer there, I do not have access to the lab or the collection, so I have decided to collect my own and start again. That is where the appeal for donations comes in.

I actually starter with Kickstarter to, well, kickstart this collection. After going through all the motions to get it activated they rejected the idea. They said the projects that have a proven track record are more likely to get funded. Here I had the definition of a kickstart all wrong. After working on things throughout the summer I decided to try again with an indiegogo attempt.

As part of the transparency pledge and group involvement, I will be sharing all the purchases and all the  talks that I do on here as well as on the facebook page. I have high expectations for what I will be able to do with this little traveling museum. Mainly I will focus on giving talks at local schools during the school year, and working with public libraries during the summers.

My hope is that this will not be just located to within a few hours drive time of where we live. That might require a little more work. Since we now live in Oklahoma, I have a base of students and schools up here to work with. But, we still have family in Texas that we will end up visiting at one time or another, and I will always have my stuff with us when traveling.

My wife and I have also thought about taking them with us when we go on vacation. If we do go somewhere for a few days, as soon as we hit where we would stay we would contact the local library, or similar public foray and see if we would be able to set up there near the end of our trip. So, on paper it looks like the gift that keeps on giving (maybe).

I don’t expect any really large donations, but a lot of a few dollars at a time. The perks aren’t anything greatly spectacular, but they are part of what makes us, well, us. Above you see our logo, that will be on the magnet and the T-shirt. Below is the logo icon that will be on the stickers.

Finally, the real payoff for doing stuff like this is getting science into the hands of school kids that may never get the opportunity to go to a museum. Coming from a small school, I know how big of an ordeal it was to even plan a trip to the Natural History Museum. Sharing the wonders of science, and the history of science with kids, just may keep them interested in science. If it doesn’t do anything else, it might help kids to think beyond their little community and ask more questions. 
Turns out the kids are usually really grateful that you took the time to share this stuff with them. I will wrap up here and share just a small smackeral sampling of the “Thank You” letters I have received in the past from giving these talks. As I get more I will share them as part of the posts to let everyone who has been gracious enough to support this project now that the have helped make a difference or at least an impact on some child’s education. 
and, just as the letters attest, Thank You for stopping by, taking the time to read, and possibly helping fund such an endeavor. If you are interested in helping me out, or just want to know more, please check  out my Indiegogo project and see what it’s all about. Please donate and spread the word. 

Ice Age Vogue

From the Denver Museum of Natural History

     
  Suddenly, quite suddenly actually, extinct mammals have shown up in documentaries and traveling exhibits. Granted they are still the “giants,” “titans,” and “other impressive adjectives” versions of the creatures that took over after the dinosaurs died out. These guys are every bit as diverse and impressive as their non mammalian counterparts, they may not be 125ft long with supersonic tail whips, (the blue whale is still the largest thing on the planet. ever.) But their biodiversity and niche filling adaptations make them quite incredible to study. Here is a little preview of a traveling exhibit called Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age,” which, as I write this, is currently on display at the Denver Museum of Natural History. Check with your local (or close-ish) museum to see if they are going to be getting in the next few years.

You may remember her taking National Geographic by storm in 2009.
Waking the Baby Mammoth

If you want a bit of interaction you can go here and play in a virtual lab with more details on Lyuba, the baby mammoth. 

What is really exciting is the upcoming BBC spectacular: Ice Age Giants. I just looked at some of teh storyboard drawings released to the BBC and they are great. I mean, these are enlarge frame and hang in your office good. That is, of course, you have some strange office decorations like I do. Guess what University now has a policy on shrunken heads? The link for the image slideshow is over at BBC News. But, here are a couple that I really liked:

 The trailers for this look fantastic. The CGI has improved so much from when they first started making these kinds of things. I do miss the animatronic stuff, but that usually shows up in larger budget productions. Here is a brief trailer and a bit of the behind the scenes talk with the animators and twitchy digital programs that make animal hair move how its supposed to when an extinct animal walks.

There is a second trailer here that has even better quality previews of the animals. For whatever reson that video will not embed, so you are stuck going over to youtube. It’s worth it though. 
To say that people were just beginning to notice these large hairy mammals is quite untrue. They have always been around. They were some of the first vertebrate fossil remains discovered. Some have even been the basis for national identity as well as bodies of mythological heroes. 
Since the discovery of dinosaurs, however, they have been pushed into the wings, awaiting their cance to shine after big meetings where dino groupies roll like some quasi-scientific wave over the newest argument of Tyrannosaur feathers. Once the scaly/feathery goo has sloughed off the street you can get a clearer view of these impressarios as they were, as they were interpreted, and as they are now. Always, there, they are far more than a dinosaurs understudy. Don’t believe me? Read this. 
                   

They are as part of America as baseball, apple pie, and cliches. Once the dust settled, the revolutionaries turned scientist. Our Founding Fathers worked with Our Founding Fossils. I am working on a paper discussing that which will, hopefully be finished end of June. Look for it in a future post. Until the next time we meet, keep reading the bones.

Dino Dynasties

The title, borrowed from Katherine Rogers’ book, is a segue into a bit of rewritten familial ahistory on my part. The Sternberg family began collecting fossils with Edward Drinker Cope, and led to a family of vertebrate paleontologists. A son found the famous “fish within a fish” fossil. Many of the sternbergs finds were near where they lived.
 
I only mention them to begin this aside into my little piece of “what could of been.”

My great-great grandparents lived in Atoka, Ok. My great-great grandfather was born in Leonard, TX farmed a huge swath of southeastern Oklahoma and is buried in Atoka County. I have no idea where my great-great grandmother is buried, but that is not the point.

The point is, if James Benjamin Burnes had taken time out of his busy schedule of surviving he may have found this:

Arcanthrosaurus atokensis.  It is entirely possible that he would have found nothing as well, but when you come across things discovered within walking distance of a past family farm, in a formation named after a town that my great grandfather’s brother lived in the thought does cross ones mind. There were hundreds (probably not that many) of other people that lived there, and they would have been equally likely to find the fossils, but their descendants are not writing pointless what if blogs on the internet.

My background is Eocene mammals, so it isn’t quite as heartbreaking that atokensis isn’t our family crest fossil, but the idea still is a fun one. Besides, James Benjamin as a young man cuts quite the paleontological figure.

Standard More about Me or And now here’s your Host

Sir David Attenborough recording a chorus of frogs in 1954.
Photo courtesy of wildfilmhistory.org, a fantastic site

Given that we are all living in the 21st century together and through the good advice of trusted associates of mine I have started a blog.  I shall retro-act a New Year’s resolution of creating one and then cross it from my list.  I am not at all entirely sure what this will always consist of or where it will go in the future.  My guess is that it will just provide more filler for me to work on instead of actually doing work for my classes.

I am working towards a Master’s degree in history.  My main research focuses on live animal collecting for zoos.  There is also some tangential work being done on specimen collecting for museums.  I have three minor’s in Anthropology, Geology, and Earth Sciences.  I am a Natural Historian of the 19th Century vein.  Not unlike Porthos who claimed a beheading axe a gift from the Tsarina of America, I  self proclaim my college hours and experience to be a Bachelor of Science in History.  I can do that, its my blog.

What I hope my followers (all both of you) will get out of this is a concise inclusion of things that are going on in the science world presently. I confess many issues will include links to BBC news.  I also hope to enlighten some about what went on in the world of science in the past.  We all grow up with iconic images of famous people, I shall use Darwin as an example. In our mind’s eye we see him old and white-bearded, about 23.

However this is not the Darwin that sailed on the Beagle. It was a younger man (Darwin really wasn’t 23 with the white beard) that lost his cookies over the Beagle’s railing explored Argentina, and ate large flightless bird over a campfire.  A specimen which turned out to be a new species, upon that realization Charles went around gathering up everyone’s table scraps to make another scientific contribution via Richard Owen’s descriptions.

Those are the stories I want to share. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I, but if you do not I will also fill updates with reviews of books I have had to read for class and the ones I have chosen to read for pleasure, they are seldom the same. Some movies we go to, but that is infrequent, as well as reviews for a few theatre performances, and local symphony happenings.

I will also try and highlight anything I do along the way to a PhD somewhere over time’s horizon.  I am notorious for visiting a city and really only going to two places: the zoo and their Natural History Museum. I will try and keep these things brief enough to read between laps your boss makes in your office, but some will require a bit more page time.

Updates will be infrequent, and sometimes more than once a day. I look forward to constructive comments from my captivated and attentive audiences as well as any questions that you guys have. I will try to cite sources that I use, even though the one for the above Darwin anecdote escapes me at the moment.

So, for a brief semi introduction, this will have to suffice.  Once I get my blogging sea legs under me, I will go into more detail about why I call this blog The Platypus and the Dodo and maybe some back history on me that could be found in the about me section, if you are inclined to give a fig about who I am. Most of you do, and the only reason you will check the “About Me” section is to see if I have lied.