Astronomy Theft at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

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Photo: Albuquerque Astronomical Society

Albuquerque – Thieves on Tuesday stole more than $30,000 worth of gear from the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, including a highly-prized inflatable planetarium used to show how the sky looks at any place, any time in history to any culture. The planetarium travels around the state for the club’s presentations at schools and other functions. It was stolen Tuesday from a storage unit.

The dome was stolen Tuesday thieves broke into society member Martin Hilario’s car parked and locked at his apartment in the far Northeast Heights. They stole his personal telescope, worth a few thousand dollars, his credit card, as well as the keys to the society’s storage unit, which listed the address.

From there, the thieves drove to the unit and raided it, taking large bins and boxes containing models of planets, worksheets for students and all the other activities the volunteer society members use to put on presentations at schools.

This story brings home, sad as it is, once again highlights how important it is for museums (and related institutions) to be cognizant of risks to their collections and equipment. Although we have levied this in others forums with regard to wildlife trafficking, the issue becomes an ethical one when objects and collections are held in the public trust and paid for by public monies. While nobody (except the thieves) is to blame for this unfortunate episode, museum security is so often something that gets neglected for more pressing issues. The website of the ICOM International Committee on Museum Security (ICMS) has resources that help raise awareness and offer practical solutions.

On their website, the Astronomy Society says the following:

Our portable planetarium, used frequently at local schools, has been stolen. We are accepting donations the help cover the deductible amount on our insurance and to cover the higher cost of a new unit. If you wish to help us keep bringing the science of astronomy to our schools, you may donate to our planetarium fund by clicking here.

Read more of the story at this link.

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