Unwrapping Tibet

7 September 2010. IVPP, Beijing, China.

The field vehicles arrived in Beijing on Sunday evening, after a ten-day trek from the western border of Tibet across the Tibetan Plateau and down to coastal China. We welcomed the drivers back with an early dinner, and sent them home for some rest.

Monday morning was the usual off-loading of the vehicles which made our fossil finds visible for all in the institute to see. Many passers-by asked about our trip and the nature of our new discoveries. The real work begins, however, with the unpacking and curating of the specimens.

[boxes of mammal fossils as they were in our Zhada Basin headquarter]

Even though the title "curator" may invoke many glorious (sometimes not so glorious) and adventurous associations in the common enthusiast, its core responsibility is far from those perceptions. Work does not end with the discovery of a new fossil specimen (in fact, that is the simplest and easiest step, in my opinion). The cleaning, labeling, identification, and proper documentation and storage of each and every single specimen that comes into one's attention is the bridge that allows a specimen to be scientifically studied and made known to the world.

I gained a full appreciation of the "background work" of curation and collection through working with Curatoral Assistant Gary Takeuchi, who upheld a high standard of specimen curation even under the more adverse field conditions. This year I am left to curate the specimens on my own terms as both Xiaoming and Gary have returned to Los Angeles.

It is no easy task, and specimens are still being unpacked at this point. Measurements will commence on the in situ specimens from the ZD1001 quarry as soon as everything from this season has been boxed and labeled.


1 comment:

Spencer said...

Sounds tough, but I have faith in you! It also sounds fascinating....