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Archive for Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Local loss

Why couldn’t the dinosaur lab planned for Kansas City have been located at Kansas University or elsewhere in Lawrence?

March 23, 2005

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Recent news stories have outlined the collaborative effort of Kansas University Natural History Museum paleontologists and officials of Kansas City's "Science City," where the skeletal model of a 144-million-year-old dinosaur will be assembled in a lab that allows people to view the process and ask questions.

The project will be a good program for KU paleontologists and for volunteers who will help in the effort. Kansas City officials hope the "Dino Lab" will generate increased traffic for Science City, located in Kansas City's old Union Station.

Although early organizers and boosters made grand promises about what the Science City project would mean to Kansas City and the thousands upon thousands of visitors it would draw to see the various exhibits, it has been a costly failure. Science City and Kansas City officials have tried to figure out how to save the project and now are counting on the dinosaur exhibit to lure large numbers of visitors and bring in badly needed revenue.

All of this is fine, but there is one big unanswered question.

KU's Museum of Natural History has one of the nation's finest collections of both adult and juvenile dinosaur bones. In fact, it may be the best collection of any American university. Why shouldn't there be a "dino lab" at the university or elsewhere in Lawrence? If an old converted train station in Kansas City can have an educational exhibit that will be of interest to youngsters, as well as adults, couldn't a similar, but even better lab be located here? Think what it would do to attract visitors both to the university and to Lawrence.

It should be noted the "bones" to be reassembled in Kansas City really are models created in molds of the real bones. It is not known whether a Lawrence-KU dinosaur lab could display the actual bones, but at least with the large collection of dinosaurs at KU, Lawrence could have something truly special to attract visitors.

Let's not give away too many of the university's valuable assets just to please some folks in Kansas City. What's needed for an even better, more attractive, more educational dinosaur lab somewhere in Lawrence? It could be a fantastic and unique attraction for Lawrence and KU.

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