Tuesday, November 26, 2013

(Annals of Geophysics, 55, 3, 2012; doi: 10.4401/ag-5562)

Riccardo Manni

Paleontological museums should adopt a code of ethics in order to carry out restorations and to set-up exhibits without any falsification. 
Indeed, alterations can often be voluntary because an exhibit needs to be "beautiful", "realistic" or "charming" for the public. Therefore, the reconstructed parts are painted and then "soiled" artfully to look more realistic. An incomplete skeleton might be completed by reconstructing the missing bones, or by adding casts of other bones. Sometimes skeletons are "created", by assembling together bones from several specimens of the same species. Therefore, the museum staff should also inform visitors if a specimen has undergone such tampering, because otherwise each visitor is convinced that they have seen a "true" fossil. 
So all museum staff should be trained not only in the techniques of museums, but also in the ethics of restoration and installation.