"The last time
a crew went out to gather material for a habitat display of birds—leaves, soil,
logs, rocks—a film crew went along to document how it was done. We might have
to use this as a training film when no one remembers the techniques."
I GOT AN A IN
On one of Peary's
collecting trips he brought back six very live, very perplexed Eskimos. He gave
them to the museum. They lived with a museum official in Manhattan. Four died
of TB, one went home after 18 months and the remaining boy grew up and learned
to like the city so well that he became a taxi driver.
The skeletons of
the four Eskimos were preserved, cataloged and stored on the fifth floor. There
was a scandal about the Eskimos at the time of their deaths, with newspaper
editorials demanding that the bodies be sent home for burial.
catches up with itself. Now it is possible to sit in the museum's "People
Center"—three small demonstration halls—and hear museum educators speak to
grade-school children about Eskimos, using artifacts similar to those Peary
brought back as props.
The museum was
begun with an eye to education, and the process has gone far beyond a few cases
of stuffed antelopes. The museum runs classes from kindergarten to
postdoctorate seminars. These range from "Love Life and Aquaculture of the
Lobster," an evening lecture series for $35, to the most elaborate,
"Darwin and the Beagle—A Voyage to Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia and the East
Coast of South America," a recent three-week trip led by Dr. Junius B.
Bird, curator emeritus of anthropology. The trip was made on a Lindblad cruise
ship slightly more elegant than the H.M.S. Beagle. It cost $3,500 to $4,500 for
19 days. Curators also hold seminars in their offices, their students earning
credits at NYU, CUNY and Columbia University.
As a 6-year-old
Puerto Rican boy tries on an Eskimo parka like the ones that once clothed those
bones stored in trays, his ebullient classmates laugh and titter. And perhaps
the value of museums and their insatiable urge for collection comes into
question as the lecturer tells about the sad decimation of the Alaskan
IS THERE A DOCTOR
IN THE HOUSE?
If few museum
visitors realize that vast collections back up the comparatively few specimens
on display, fewer still realize that there are some 125 full-time curators and
research associates—a university science staff—cataloging and classifying all
the pieces of the natural world that are in the building.
curatorial staff is different from a college faculty," says Dr. Jerome G.
Rozen Jr., deputy director for research. "We have no physicists, chemists,
mathematicians. We are mostly systematists, searching for new species and
subspecies. Some of our people are anthropologists and mineralogists,