Cowboys, scientists, and fossils: The field site and local collaboration in the American West

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18 Scopus citations


Even as the division between professional scientists and laypeople became sharper by the end of the nineteenth century, the collaboration of local people remained important in scientific fieldwork, especially in sciences such as vertebrate paleontology that required long-term extractive access to research sites. In the North American West, the competition between museums and universities for the best fossil quarry sites involved negotiations with locals. The conflict over differing conceptions of the field site is vividly demonstrated through an examination of one site on the High Plains of western Nebraska in the early twentieth century. This case offers a rare opportunity to see not only how professionals regarded such sites but also how the resident ranching family, the Cooks, attempted to exercise leverage over the scientific fieldwork that took place there. While the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh became mired in protracted conflict with the Cooks over discovery claims and the ongoing control of the site, the University of Nebraska and the American Museum of New York developed more harmonious relations with the site's resident ranching family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-303
Number of pages31
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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