NORMAN, Okla. - They may have sat in dirt for at least 100 million years, but that doesn't mean the irreplaceable artifacts don't need cleaning once in a while.
At least once a year, Tom Luczycki and a whole team of paleontologists rummage through a special broom closet and dust every skeleton in the Natural History Museum, from the 93 foot long Apatasaurus to the tip of the tail on its baby.
"It is adventure cleaning," he said.
Bones smaller than 1 millimeter across get a scrub.
"No matter how hard we work, dust comes into the building," Luczycki said. "And, it's just always settling on everything."
Not every piece is made of fossilized bone.
Biggest pieces are made of plastic, but dust doesn't discriminate.
Visitors bring it in on their feet and shed it from their clothing and even skin.
You might dust your antiques at home and wish for something better to clean with.
The professionals do the same.
"You kind of sound like a dentist," remarks a visitor on cleaning day.
"Flossing is important," Luczycki smiles. "What we need to do is make some dinosaur floss."
They move from top to bottom.
Bones, walls, every surface gets a brush.
Cleaners in charge, including Rich Cifelli, worry about vacuuming up very small pieces.
"Some of these are incredibly delicate specimens."
They sometimes discover new cracks as they clean.
But, the risks of displaying these specimens is worth it, they said.
If they were locked away, who would believe the description of something like a freshly dusted Pentaceratops, a world record fossil you can't see anywhere else?
"These specimens are held in public trust, and we display them for the people of Oklahoma," Cifelli said.
From the sea beds of the Cretaceous to the very top of the ancient food chain, the dusty old bones hold a special place on the antique shelf of Oklahoma history.
A good dusting helps insure they'll stay there for generations to come.
For more information on the Sam Noble Natural History Museum, go to www.samnoblemuseum.ou.edu.