"There are dirty politics behind Lucy", say activists

The Houston Chronicle covers some outrage by the Houston Ethiopian community about the upcoming "Lucy" exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science:

The Ethiopian Community Organization in Houston recently announced its position against the Houston Museum of Natural Science planned exhibit of the 3.2-million-year-old hominid.
The group blames museum officials and the Ethiopian government for what it says is a politically insensitive and profit-driven decision that could damage the fragile fossil during its trek to America. Museum officials and other exhibit supporters, however, said bringing Lucy to the U.S. is about cultural exchange - not politics.

The article gives a bit of background on how the museum landed the exhibit in the first place (it's the usual story; local politician goes on Ethiopian junket).

I'm more or less agnostic about this, and am pointing out stories as they appear as a way of documenting the different angles.

A few years ago, an exhibit called "Treasures of the Tsars" brought some of the Russian royal jewels and other artifacts to Topeka, Kansas. The effect was really positive - the exhibit brought in tourists from a wide area, it deepened local interest in Russia, and even led (indirectly) to my inlaws taking a trip there. So these cultural exchanges do tend to work. And a highly publicized museum tour is likely to bring a lot more public interest into the field of paleoanthropology.

On the other hand, I can sympathize with the potential for damage to the original fossils. Fossils are damaged to a small extent almost every time they are handled, but rarely is the chance of catastrophic loss as great as when they are transported from one institution to another.

In this article, the objection is political -- the local leadership of the Ethiopian community objects to the Ethiopian government, and that's another element of the whole picture. Neither science nor education are really immune from the political considerations, a problem which has from time to time affected the research itself.

(via Klementidis)