What is Dead may never Die

Yes, the title of my blog post does originate from Game of Thrones. With the new series premiering a few days ago, the show is not far from my mind. I found this particular motto relating nicely with the large amount of natural specimen that the museum storage holds.

There are lots of bones in the collection. Skulls, mandibles, vertebrate bones and hyoid bones are all just a fraction of the skeletal materials in storage. I know part of this because I had to build stable, secure boxes to hold a large amount of wolf cranial and post cranial materials that came into the collection. There are also skeletal materials of bears, bighorn sheep, bison, elk and coyotes. A large array of bird skeletons (and fully preserved bird cadavers) also resides in the collection. So, why do the remains of so many animals live on in the collections?

The main answer is research. Scientists can gather data about how a species changes over time by examining the skeletal materials. Researching the skeleton in person is important, as researchers could discover details previously unobserved, or the details researchers want are unique to their project. They could want to find features that would not be available in a written description of the remains.

In many ways, science and the humanities overlap. Sometimes the richest information comes from examining the source itself, not reading a secondary description of it. Also, I never thought that I, a humanities based person, would be in charge of the care of biological specimen. While biologists recovered the bodies and created post-mortem reports, it is the museum staff that provides care for the remains. For me, that shows a fascinating cooperation between the two disciplines, and also shows that they do not exist in two separate worlds, at least in a place like a national park.


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