Pete Knutson is tired of having the school’s $30,000 anthropology collection meddled with and is frustrated with the school’s administration for its lack of action.
“This is probably one of the best anthropology fossil collections of any community college anywhere in the state,” the anthropology professor said. “I just want to puke when I see the disrespect that is done to the collection,” he said.
Rare skeletons have been irreparably damaged and Knutson alleges someone stole the head of a chimpanzee skeleton after the head went missing. The chimp, which was the most expensive piece in the collection, also had its arm ripped off. However, the more common occurrence that ticks off the teacher is when the collection is left out, leaving it vulnerable to damage and theft.
“I get really upset because I know this class does a great job for students and it’s really unique to have this kind of equipment,” he said, “it’s like people don’t value it, it’s just crazy.”
The collection contains artifacts that date back as far as three and a half million years. It includes a real human skeleton, an assortment of human and primate skulls, hunting artifacts and a variety of animal skeletons. Knutson, a tenured instructor who has taught biological anthropology at the school since the 1990s, uses the collection to teach the history of human evolution to various classes. He said many of the pieces are irreplaceable.
Knutson has brought the issue to the dean’s attention and filed two police reports with the Seattle Police Department for destroyed and missing items. “A month ago stuff was just wide open and not protected so I went to my deans and said ‘look at this!’ and they said ‘oh we’ll take care of it,” Knutson recounted. Though, after returning to school from a two week sabbatical, Knutson said, “everything was still wide open, people were cruising around, and there was no security.”
Knutson requests that the school appoints a designated curator who will be responsible for the care and maintenance of the anthropology collection and for the school to implement clear guidelines for those who use the room. In the meantime, Knutson has created a list of lab protocols that are posted in the room, though with the recent neglect and carelessness, he said he believes this is not sufficient.
“It’s a lot of fun to have this class where students are able to work with the actual material,” Knutson said, “there are a lot of good skills that come out of the class but I could not do it without the material.”