more (2) on Electronic access to collections

Museum Informatics Project MIP-ARCH at UCBCMSA.BITNET
Thu May 19 10:15:00 CDT 1994


From: "Eric A. Lazo-Wasem" <ealw at george.peabody.yale.edu>
To: Multiple recipients of list <entomo-l at herman.cs.uoguelph.ca>
Subject: Re: Electronic access to collections
X-Comment: Entomology Discussion List

On Thu, 19 May 1994 10:37:17 -0400, Mark Camara wrote:

>I had dinner, last night, with a collections manager working for the
>federal government, and she made a very interesting criticism of the
>current push to make museum collections accessible via internet.
>Apparently, rabid collectors of rare and endangered species have begun to
>use the internet access to determine locations for profitable collecting,
>and have (at least with a few plant species) wiped out very critical
>populations...............


I think that restricting useful information such as locality information is
not the approach to take, even in light of the fact that "some" people may
use the information improperly.  Might as pull the faunal guides off the
library shelves at the same time.

Instead, doesn't this point to a far more serious problem in the first
place, i.e. the practice of individuals building up private collections of
natural history objects to used like stamps or trading cards?  Because
there is such a need of "ownership" it has fueled the over-collecting
problem in the first place.  This practice is rampant in
groups with intrinsic value, insects and shelled mollusks being the most
notable examples (I don't want to even start the dinosaur/fossil debate
here).  Far too much "trophy" hunting has gone on.  I am always disturbed
at the numbe being the most
notable examples (I don't want to even start the dinosaur/fossil debate
here).  Far too much "trophy" hunting has gone on.  I am always disturbed
at the number of paratypes that end up in the "personal collection of the
author" rather than appropriately deposited in a museum where they can
benefit all.  Even among professionals there is too much emphasis on
building a personal collection, sometimes at the sacrifice of the
institutional holdings.

Finally, for the electronic format to be really useful, fairly detailed
information is necessary.  Very little "research" value can be gained by
publishing (electronically or on paper) stripped down lists of "holdings".
Remember, the utility of "gopher" lists goes beyond merely searching for
a particular taxon's occurrence in some museum's collection.  People can
just as easily abuse the printed literature, LANDSAT images, etc.  The type
information we are putting out is nothing new (and have given out freely
in the past), it is just being presented in a new manner.

Views are entirely mine, and I will probably be burned at the stake for
voiceing this heresy.

Eric Lazo-Wasem
Collections Manager, Invertebrate Zoology
Yale Peabody Museum




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