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Archive for Monday, July 19, 1993

DONATION SWELLS RANKS AT DYCHE HALL

July 19, 1993

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Beware: A huge Alaskan brown bear has been spotted on the Kansas University campus.

"The Kodiak stands close to 9 feet tall," said Errol Hooper Jr., associate director of exhibits at KU's Museum of Natural History.

That impressive bear and more than 200 other animals -- of the stuffed variety -- are recent additions to the museum's collection. They were donated by the Kansas City Museum, Kansas City, Mo.

"The pieces were not the focus of our museum," said Julie Mattsen, registrar at the Kansas City Museum. "The main focus of our museum is regional history -- Kansas and Missouri -- and these specimens came from regions other than our own."

The KC museum's loss is the KU museum's gain.

"It was great for them to choose us," said Tom Swearingen, director of exhibits at KU's museum in Dyche Hall. "It broadens the collection right off the bat. There is a wide variety of animals."

KU officials didn't place a value on the donation.

"Some things you don't like to put prices on. There's already too much of a problem with poachers," Hooper said.

The mammals, birds, reptiles and fish are slowly making their way from storage facilities in the Kansas City area to KU. Some of the specimens will be displayed, while others will be used for research.

The collection includes a polar bear, which is on display, and an African lion, Iranian sheep, a yellow-headed blackbird and bald eagles.

"Some animals, like the red sheep from northern Iran, are hard to find in North American museums," Swearingen said.

Hooper said the collection would be of considerable value to researchers because some specimens were accompanied with documentation as to place of capture, size and characteristics.

"A lot of the specimens were taken in African expeditions," Hooper said. "It would be very costly to acquire these specimens and very difficult, because some are not part of a huntable population."

Swearingen said that originally the Kansas City Museum thought the donation amounted to fewer than 200 animals. Further examination of the collection revealed that the total will exceed 200, he said.

"There are many, many more things to go pick up yet," he said. "There are six or seven typed pages full of animals, and they keep coming up with new ones."

Much of the preservation work was of high quality, Swearingen said. However, some of the specimens were damaged in storage and aren't of much use to KU.

"Some of it was stored in the upstairs area of the (Kansas City) museum and had bug infestation. Not having proper storage was hurting them," he said.

KU's Museum of Natural History, founded in 1866 by L.L. Dyche, houses 960,000 specimens of fossil and recent fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Museum hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and holidays.

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