It could be sunnyside up for Lawrence and Kansas University curators, if a pair of crowd-pleasing dinosaur eggs from China find their home here.
"I'd love to have them," said Larry Martin, senior curator at KU's Natural History Museum.
The museum is considered one of three likely repositories for the fossilized eggs presented last week to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius by a 26-member trade delegation from the Henan Province in the People's Republic of China.
Sebelius wanted the eggs displayed as soon as possible, so the Kansas Department of Commerce alerted the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, which is where significantly historic gifts to the state are routinely sent.
"The day after they were received, they went on display," said Caleb Asher, a commerce department spokesman. "They were presented to the governor, but they're a gift to all the people of Kansas. So, the governor wanted to get them in a place where they could be seen by the public."
But where the eggs will end up remains to be unscrambled. Curators at the Museum of History said they realized there might be better homes for the eggs, given that the KU Natural History Museum and the Sternberg Museum in Hays are each well suited for exhibiting natural history items.
"It's up to the governor's office," said Bob Keckeisen, director at the Kansas Museum of History. "They're certainly welcome here, but I'd be surprised if they don't wind up at either the Natural History Museum at KU or the Sternberg."
Keckeisen said it also might be possible that one egg would go to each KU and the Sternberg. Currently, neither of the two museums has dinosaur eggs.
Wherever the eggs end up they are likely to be a draw.
"They're very popular. There's almost always a crowd around them," Keckeisen said.
The eggs now are on display in the Topeka museum's front gallery right inside the front doors.
The cantaloupe-sized eggs are from the Xixia Basin in Henan Province, the world's largest known cache of dinosaur eggs with an estimated 2 million eggs in a 620-square-mile area.
"They're common in the Henan Province," said Martin, senior curator at KU's Natural History Museum. "The problem you get into is getting them here legally and making sure all the paperwork is done properly.
"I assume that because this was handled by the Chinese government itself, this has all been taken care of, in which case this is a very nice gift."
Museums are prohibited from displaying objects obtained through illegal channels.
Kansas and the Henan Province have had a sister relationship since 1981. Sebelius plans to visit the province and other parts of China in October.
Scientists don't know which dinosaur species laid the eggs.
"That's not the way it works," said Mike Everhart, an adjunct curator of paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays. "Dinosaur eggs are categorized by the eggs themselves, rather than what laid them. It's a tough concept to understand because we're used to everything being pigeonholed, but we're not to the point where we can point to this egg and say it came from that dinosaur. We may get there, but we're not there now."
One of the eggs is of the Dendroolithus egg category; the other is of the Faveoloolithus category.
"Popping up everywhere"
Everhart said the Sternberg would be happy to have the eggs.
We'd be glad to accept them," he said. "Eggs are a big item among dinosaur people now. They're popping up everywhere."
Martin said KU would love to have the eggs "but, on the other hand, I'd be quite happy to see the Sternberg get them. That'll be for the governor to decide."
"We'll take a look at what to do next," said Asher of the Commerce Department. "They may stay at (the Museum of History). They may go to KU or Hays. They may be shared. It's a good dilemma to be in. It'll be a good exhibit, wherever it is."
The Kansas Museum of History, 6425 S.W. Sixth Ave., Topeka, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays.
Admissions are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for students.