more on Electronic access to collections

Julian Humphries jmh3 at CORNELL.EDU
Thu May 19 16:45:46 CDT 1994

>>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
>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.

Two comments.  Firstly, I seriously doubt the accuracy of the story about
rare plants being collected based on Internet Accessible plant databases
(at the current time).  Why, because there aren't any!!  Well, at least
nothing other than type catalogs, and there are only a few of these.  I
suppose one could check the type locality for occurances of a rare plant,
but this is hardly current data or hard to get information.  But "critical
populations" implies that there are more complete population data than is
in fact available. I have not found a single USA based botanical database
with non-type specimen data available on the net.  (the only non-USA one is

Second, should specific locality data have restricted access?  My general
opinion is no.  There are no good mechanisms via Internet access methods
(e.g. gopher) to tell the good guys from the bad and mechanisms that make
it difficult for the good guys are far to cumbersome (e.g. email for record
by record info).  Having said that I believe it is appropriate to put
*record* level controls on specific data.  The MUSE Server we are
developing to provide real time Internet access to collections data (on
Windows machines) will have the ability to delete specific fields from
individual records based on ip address masks (i.e., local access could be
complete, remote access could have specific fields not shown).  The default
should, however, be complete data availability.

Julian Humphries
The Vertebrate Collections and The MUSE Project, Cornell University
Building 3, Research Park
83 Brown Road
Ithaca, NY  14850

Voice: 607-257-8143
Fax:   607-257-8109
Email: jmh3 at

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