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Texas Memorial Museum in Peril
  
  Index -> Worlwide Museums & Visits to Museums and private collections
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Peter Megaw
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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:16    Post subject: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

A proposal has been floated by Linda Hicke, President of the University of Texas at Austin to slash the budget for the Texas Memorial Museum, which houses important mineral, fossil, archeological and biological collections related to Texas and surrounding regions. We have all seen this movie before and know it often ends badly.

Non Natural Science academics...and even many non-field oriented Natural Scientists do not seem to understand that a Natural Science museum is not just cases filled with stuffed elephants, old Indian artifacts and rocks...but a library that needs to keep up a continual accumulation of what people find (for whatever reason, academic to accidental) as they find it and before context disappears. There is no digital substitute for well documented physical samples. NS museums worldwide struggle with this...mineral museums more than most because they focus on non-organic (hence non life-related) objects that many people find hard to relate to.

And the ones with collections of valuable specimens find themselves under pressure to sell them to pay salaries and keep the lights on...or in the case of art museums with valuable paintings, help bail the parent city out of hock!

Please consider chiming in on the petition link below...whether or not you're a Texan, the Chinese are building 1000 Natural Science museums to promote and support Natural Science education...while we close a few every year. Who do YOU think has this equation right?

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveourmuseum

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Bob Carnein




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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:29    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

One of my very early inspirations, leading to a career in geology and a life-long interest in mineralogy, was a visit to the Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia. I don't know how many other scientists, as kids, were bowled over by displays in natural-science museums, but I suspect that such places have an influence beyond their obvious use as school-field-trip destinations. It's another sign of our Philistinism when states as big and rich as Texas threaten their existence.
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newryqs




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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:36    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

Yes, it is popular among certain politicians to return to the good old days before the general population could read or cared about anything beyond their road to their houses. A further concern is that fossils represent a threat to narrow-mindedness and if it means sweeping the plate clean, so be it. If the electorate thought about the implications of their leaders, they might vote very differently. The US Geological Survey was successfully eviscerated by a senator who felt that paleontologists were a threat. I hope that the Museum will survive, if only through neglect, until more educated leaders see the wisdom of having important teaching objects protected where all may learn from them. Isn't that sort of the concern that Plato had or was it one of his students?
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Peter Megaw
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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:46    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

I'd like to think we're all students of Plato!

As much as I may agree with your comments about politicians I think the goal of FMF is to stick to the rocks and leave politics out of it.

Of course if you're talking about the politics and policies of museum boards of directors that might be another story

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Richard_Murphy




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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:48    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

Linda Hicke is not the President of UT Austin, that would be Bill Powers. She is the Dean of Natural Sciences. However, this is bad news if this proposed cut goes through. Very short sighted indeed!

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Montanpark




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PostPosted: Jan 23, 2014 15:51    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

My interest in mineralogy, geology and mining stems to a big part from my first visits to the Idar-Oberstein museum with a large section about natural history and minerals (and of course from my Grandpa, old mining engineer who led me to some very interesting places). More followed and it led to a career as a mineralogist, and now at the Geological Survey. This is a recursive pattern: defunding the museums with a focus on natural science and history to rechannel funds to the more "hip" stuff ... and that may be the "topic du jour". That these museums are entry points to the natural sciences as a fundamental part of the literally baseground of our lives is forgotten by most of the politicians or administrations in charge. I hope the petition can make a difference ...

Cheers
Roger
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Susan Robinson




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PostPosted: Jan 24, 2014 07:24    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

I too, am concerned about the prospect of another mineral museum on a college campus being closed and the collections either dispersed or packed away in storage, later to probably be discarded under another administration's orders. I know these problems, since I am married to a former mineral museum curator.
The usual situation is that there has been a decline in attendance for the museum as well as in using its collections for research. The building it's housed in costs monies in heating, maintenance, etc., and the university's budget can't be stretched that far anymore, nor can they justify keeping it open. So, the decision is made to close the museum or renovate the it to make room for those departments that desperately need the space for their labs/faculty/etc.
The bottom line is monies are needed to support the museum if it is to stay open. A little here and there won't do the trick. A wealthy "champion" needs to step forward to lead the way to preserve the place.
I, too, lament the demise of these wonderful places. It's a changing world with the old making way for the new, and sometimes not always for the better. Why travel to look at the actual object when you can see it on your computer screen?
I hope the effort to preserve the museum is successful.

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newryqs




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PostPosted: Jan 24, 2014 08:34    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

Yes, you are right Peter. The politics of the University's leadership at the museum and other pertinent departments are the issue. If the Dean of Natural Sciences is really the one calling for the slashing of her own budget, something is clearly political and failure to recognize the politics of an institution makes it unlikely that outside efforts can make any difference. How much is the budget to be "slashed?"
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Matt_Zukowski
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PostPosted: Jan 25, 2014 01:28    Post subject: Re: Texas Memorial Museum in Peril  

Susan - you said, "Why travel to look at the actual object when you can see it on your computer screen?" Interesting. I, for a long time, have been slightly unhappy that few museums put pictures/descriptions up on the web so that a guy like me in Alaska can browse the collection from afar. Your post suggests to me that maybe the reason museums don't post good pictures on the web is that they want me to visit and get ticket revenue. But what if it is hard for an Alaskan like me to visit many lower 48 (or international) mineral museums? As things stand, I can't give you guys revenue even if I want to peruse your collection. I wonder if there is some way a happy medium can be struck. If I knew that a museum had a commitment to putting pictures, movies, descriptions, and other interactive content on the web, something that would appeal to me as well as kids, I would consider making a nominal friend-of-the-museum contribution to help support these activities. Perhaps others would too.

That said - have you seen the excellent pictures the MIM has been putting up? Fantastic.
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