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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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
JournalIsis
Volume99
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

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museum
ranching
fossil
fieldwork
resident
layperson
paleontology
nineteenth century
twentieth century
quarry
vertebrate
examination
university
science
American West
Cowboy
Fossil
family
conflict
plain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

Cowboys, scientists, and fossils : The field site and local collaboration in the American West. / Vetter, Jeremy A.

In: Isis, Vol. 99, No. 2, 06.2008, p. 273-303.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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