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Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

Lack of vision

January 16, 2004

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Rather than setting up a dinosaur exhibit in Kansas City, Kansas University officials should be focusing on keeping those artifacts on campus.

It is unfortunate Kansas University paleontologists will be traveling to Kansas City to help assemble the bones of a 100-million-year-old, 60-foot-long camarasaur for display in Kansas City's Science City building, the former Union Station.

The bones of this particular dinosaur, along with other dinosaurs held by the KU museum, should be assembled somewhere on the KU campus, not in Kansas City. The project will help generate added visitor traffic for the financially struggling Science City, which so far has failed to live up to the rosy projections of those promoting the Union Station effort. It's unfortunate the same effort isn't being dedicated to helping KU's Natural History Museum in Lawrence.

Various KU faculty members have proposed a new building in Lawrence for the dinosaur exhibit, but no site could be agreed upon. At one time, it was suggested a large glass building be added to the west side of Dyche Hall so the public could see KU paleontologists and students at work cleaning and reassembling the dinosaur bones. Such an exhibit would be a popular visitor attraction.

For one reason or another, this didn't work out, and other sites around Mount Oread or in Lawrence were considered. Either funds couldn't be found to build the unique visitor attraction or senior KU officials didn't place a high enough priority on the project to get it done. Maybe it was a case of those who wanted to keep the dinosaurs at KU not doing a good enough sales job.

The funding question puzzles some observers because the KU First capital campaign has passed the $500 million target goal and it is believed $15 million of this total had been earmarked for a museum and teaching facility for the dinosaur display. Now, however, university officials say the project hasn't been funded.

KU's collection of dinosaur bones is one of the largest and finest in the country, and it is a shame it is not being used in a way that would reflect credit on the Museum of Natural History and KU faculty members. The collection could increase visitor traffic to the university as well as presenting many teaching opportunities and giving KU a badly needed public relations boost.

It seems like a win-win situation for KU, but apparently it is not high enough on the university's priority list. The winner in this deal seems to be Kansas City, which is benefiting from KU's lack of vision.

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