On September 28, 2015, ISMD president Bolortsetseg Minjin shared this statement with her followers on Facebook regarding the sensitive topic of Mongolian fossils in the possession of the AMNH. While the ISMD supports the immediate repatriation of all fossils illegally exported from Mongolia, those which were legally exported are a different, and much more complex, issue.
2015 оны 9 сарын 28-ны ѳдѳр МДСХ-ийн Ерѳнхийлѳгч М.Болорцэцэг Америкийн Байгалийн Түүхийн Музейд буй Монголын палеонтологийн олдвортой холбоотой мэдэгдлийг ѳѳрийн Нүүрномын хуудсан дээр тавьж байсан. МДСХ нь Монголоос хууль бусаар гарсан олдворуудыг буцаан эх орондоо аваачихыг дэмжин ажиллаж байгаа бѳгѳѳд хууль ёсоор гарсан олдворуудын хувьд шийдэгдэх шаардлагатай асуудлууд бий. (Монгол орчуулгыг энд уншина уу)
We had some crazy notion that there might be time to relax on our last week in UB. That was three weeks ago.
As soon as we returned to Ulaanbaatar we were in a whirlwind of press appearances, meetings and workshops. Bolor had no less than four interviews, including a TV morning show with myself, Teddy and Binderiya.
With all the press it finally became a necessity to for Bolor to have a proper portrait and so we went to the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs to get a shot with the Tarbosaurus that started this whole thing, which is on display in their main hall. Instead, we ended up in a very interesting meeting with the museum director, Javzmaa Namsrai. We signed a memorandum of understanding for future cooperation and look forward to working with the museum.
And we eventually got the portrait.
Workshops were a blast all week, we held them in a geology classroom at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, and the dim but beautifully dinosaur-embellished auditorium of the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs.
We also met so many people who wanted to work with us in some way that I can barely remember them all, from a couple building apps for kids to an alternative energy specialist who specced out the Moveable Museum for solar panels.
And then we had to say goodbye, with so much more to do and so many more ideas than we came with, four far-too-short weeks prior.
We have one last Mongolia-based team member we’d like you to meet. It’s my pleasure to introduce Gambold Luvsannamjail, who drove the Moveable Museum this year, last year, and with all good luck for many future years to come.
We met Gambold through Bolor’s mom, who was a 5th grade teacher once upon a time. Gambold wasn’t her best student, but she remembered him long after he moved to Khazakstan to become a crane operator. Gambold served in the Mongolian military for three years, and then served the public for many more as a municipal bus driver in Ulaanbaatar.
Late one night on the road, when our team was huddled in a ger and it was very cold outside, I asked everyone what time they would go to if time travel was possible. Gambold was the only one who picked the future. He sees Mongolia on the rise, hosting the Olympics, growing a space program to rival the US and Russia. It was because of him that I started imagining the Martian landscape dotted with little white gers, and that image will be with me forever. Thank you, Gamba.
Much more to say–too much for this update. Til next time,
It’s about time you met Binderiya Munkhbat. The list of things that would not have happened without her includes more than half our workshops, almost all our museum tours, understanding and being understood by our drivers, museum directors, politicians, crowds and waiters, not to mention the joy she has brought us every day just by being herself: ultra-reliable, thoughtful and always ready to smile. We couldn’t bear to let her go and we’re thrilled to announce that she’s agreed to keep working with us for the next twelve months from here in UB, translating and developing educational programs.
Binderiya studied Public Administration in Ulaanbaatar at the University of Computer Science and Management and she’s been working as a volunteer for Mongolia’s only 4H chapter since April 2011. She got into museum work in 2014 after a chance encounter at the National Museum of Mongolia, where she volunteered as a museum educator and program developer for eight months. Her manager there recommended her to us as an exhibit interpreter last year, and she was at the top of our list for this year. When I interviewed her for this profile, she expressed a long-term desire to help improve Mongolia’s education system and to make museums here “more alive.” We’re convinced she’ll succeed.
On the subject of success, you probably want to know how our workshops in Mandalgovi went. The school we collaborated with there was new, well-lit and very well-organized. I have to say it was a better school than a few I went to in the US, and the kids even knew a bit about dinosaurs already. In fact for one workshop, Binderiya had to switch to a more advanced lesson because the kids already knew everything from the one for their age group–including the fact that birds are dinosaurs!
We also held a full day of Moveable Museum tours and I was surprised and thrilled to see Gana interpreting the exhibits for the kids! He and Gamba both learned a lot from Binderiya on this trip and jumped in to volunteer while Binderiya was hosting workshops. Since we returned to UB, Gana has moved on to his next driving job, but we’ll stay in touch and hope to hire him again next year.
Mandalgovi has its own permanent museum, with cultural and natural history collections on display, which we got to enjoy the morning before we left. I’m pleased to be able to share some of it with you.
So we said goodbye to the Gobi, and hello to our last week in Mongolia, which I’ll share with you in the next update.
We set off for the Gobi the morning of September 14th, a team of five. Bolortsetseg hung back in UB on official business and Binderiya, Teddy and I pooled in Gana’s car with Gamba at the reins of the museum.
We were greeted in Dalanzadgad by Tushka and Suugi, two gentlemen involved in economic development, who showed us some of the town’s public art before dinner.
As the sun went down, we pulled into the neon wonderland of a new dinosaur park replete with near-life-size animatronic dinosaurs. It opened in June, and we look forward to collaborating with them on informational materials.
On the second day, we welcomed our first special guest appearance from TV cartoon star Justin Time. Earlier this summer, we came across an episode of the eponymous kids’ show that takes place at the Flaming Cliffs, and we knew the kids who live nearby would love it–plus, it’s all about paleontology! So we got in touch with the producers at Guru Studios and they were excited to send us the episode. Thanks, Guru Studios! The kids loved it! Hopefully we can get it translated into Mongolian for next year.
We also hosted a Skype session between some Mongolian high school students and the Webb School at the Alf Museum in Los Angeles, which is a unique high school that focuses on natural history. We hope it turns into an ongoing exchange. There is very little attention paid to natural history in the curriculum here, but students in the Gobi are hungry to learn more, especially about dinosaurs.
This is even more true in Bulgan, the small town closest to Bayanzag where Teddy, Gana and I spent two days accompanied by Azaa, an English-speaking tour guide with some paleontological knowledge. She showed us several un-excavated fossil sites around the Flaming Cliffs, and we did a little prospecting.
Bayanzag’s only park ranger, Munkhsaihan, introduced us to members of Altain Hoilog, a kids’ club that meets 2-3 times a week to learn about nature, go on field trips and pick up litter at Bayanzag. They were super inspiring and we’ll be helping them out however we can.
Out of room again & I’ve barely scratched the surface. Next time: the news from Dundgovi & an introduction to Binderiya Munkhbat, our genius-at-hand.