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January-February 2015

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The Dinosaur Museum (Sauriermuseum) in Aathal, Switzerland, and Dr. Hans-Jakob Siber

Hidden away in the modest mountains along a rural road in Aathal, Northern Switzerland, less than a half-hour's drive from Zurich, is, in my opinion, one of the most extraordinary museums ever created. It is, to a very large extent, the product of the exceptional efforts of one remarkable man: Dr. Hans-Jakob “Kirby” Siber. (The name Kirby is an Anglicization of his Swiss nickname Köbi.) Kirby and his father, Hans (1905–1979), started a natural science business, Siber+Siber Mineralien und Fossilien AG, in 1964 by opening a shop in Zurich. Kirby had already long been collecting “rocks,” and he was able to get his father interested in them as well. Mostly through the efforts of Kirby, with support from his brother Edy beginning in 1967, the business gained international stature. After twenty-eight years in the business, Kirby's true obsession had switched to unearthing dinosaurs and other large vertebrate fossils. He began in 1970 by digging Eocene fossil fish in Wyoming, then joined dinosaur excavations in the northern United States; he developed his dinosaur digging skills in 1985 in coastal Peru where he unearthed several immense whale skeletons. In 2014 Siber+Siber celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, making it one of the oldest mineral enterprises still in business.

John S. White, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, operates Kustos, a museum/collector consulting business. Now retired, he is the former curator-in-charge of the National Mineral and Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

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