Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Sat Aug 21 23:26:06 CDT 1993

Forwarded message:
> Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1993 09:19 MST
> <Subj:        request for info
> <From:        IN%"FNPFR3 at IRISHMVS.BITNET" 17-AUG-1993
> <Jane,
> <Could you forward the following request to the Taxonomists
> <on Line subscribers?
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> As part of an assessment of the role of the herbarium, I
> need some help estimating two components of the 'costs' of
> maintaining our collections.
>   1) What is a reasonable salary for a full-time curator?   This would be a
>      non-faculty staff appointment for an individual with a M.S. degree
>      and at least three years of curatorial experience.

This is a difficult question for a variety of reasons, not the least of
which is the difference in salaries and standards of living between
nations and even between states.

And also what you mean by curator...  here curator is generally taken to
be synonymous with director, rather than a person responsible for a major
group or part of the collection.  In universities here, there is not the
strong distinction between faculty and staff as appears to be the case
in US academia.  The curators of the university herbaria in Australia
also have significant teaching and research responsibilities as well as
the supervision and management of the collections.

Another factor would be the size, complexity and intensity of use of
your collection.  A large and active collection would require a higher
level of curator than a small teaching collection.

As a relative indication, the curators of the main herbaria in Australia
(c. 300 000 to 1 500 000 specimens and c. 3 - 30 staff) are paid at or
above senior lecturer level, say AUD 50 000 to 80 000.  Not that that
means very much in your case...

And then of course there is the question prestige.  Just how important
is your collection perceived to be; not so much in a scientific sense,
but by those who make funding and resource decisions.

At the end of the day, the curator of the collection is a very important
position and should receive a justly very important salary ( in my humbly
unbiased opinion ;-) ).

>   2) How does one determine, for insurance purposes, the value
>      of a collection?

This is much more difficult.  And any answer is perhaps meaningless.
The cost of collection and incorpotation is relatively easy to assess
and our specimens cost c. AUD 20-25 each to get into folders in the
collection.  This impresses auditors when you tell them that the pile of
dried leaves we fuss over would cost 'x million dollars' to replace if
we had to do it today.  But the value?  Emotionally my collections are
worth a hell of a lot more than that, as they are scientifically.  But
what is the value of a type collection?  Not as much as human life,
obviously, but it is right up there in that category.

The fact that we have custodial responsibility for these specimens _in
perpetuity_ also impinges on their value, if one has to be assigned.

One way I tried looking at it was to ask was how money would it take to
stop me crying or being angry if the collection was destroyed?  I still
have not been able to work out a figure.

A major problem is that economists and administrators do not believe you
when you tell them how essential, and thus how valuable, historical
biological collections are to biologists.

We have tried to address the value of a collection(s) also for the
purposes of tax-deductibility for bequests and donations.  It is a very
gray and fuzzy area and we have not been able to come up with a
reasonable formula.  Unlike photographs, slides, illustrations, books,
etc. there is not a large commercial market in herbarium specimens and
it is thus difficult to arrive at a 'market value'.  The final result
seems to be a compromise negotiated between the donor (who wants the
value as high as possible), the taxman (who wants the value to be as low
as possible, preferrably 0) and the recipient institution (who does not
care as long as they get the specimens).

I have heard of instantances where entire herbaria have been notionally
valued at $1 to keep book keepers happy and because a meaningful figure
was too difficult to arrive at.  This approach is not particulalry

> Any guidelines you can provide will be appreciated.  Please send
> your responses to
>    Richard Jensen
>    Director, Greene-Nieuwland Herbarium
>    University of Notre Dame
>    fnpfr3 at
> Thanks for your assistance.
> Richard Jensen

I would be interested in hearing what others have to say about the
'value' of the collections for which we have custodial responsibility
and would appreciate a summary of the responses you receive, posted to
a list such as TAXACOM to see if there is some degree of concensus on
this question.

Jim Croft           [Herbarium CBG]               internet: jrc at
Australian National Botanic Gardens                  voice:  +61-6-2509 490
GPO Box 1777, Canberra, ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA            fax:  +61-6-2509 599
______Biodiversity Directorate, Australian Nature Conservation Agency______

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