"Threat" to types (or institutions?)

MICHAEL A. IVIE ueymi at MSU.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU
Sun Jul 9 15:42:42 CDT 1995


When I first heard about the negotiations to consider natural history
specimens "cultural property" about 6months ago, I knew a bloodbath was
awaiting our community.  Say whatever you may about systematists, we do
maintain pretty good communications between rich (first-world, northern,
colonialist, developted) and poor (or choose your own modifier) countries.
However, this one is going to cut us up.  Consider the relations between
2 rich countries, the U.K. and New Zealand.  The Kiwis I know have made it
clear for years they want the Broun collection, with its thousands of
N.Z. beetle types returned to the very well maintained collections in N.Z.
The British Museum has made it clear it won't do it, but will send any 2
types at a type that the colonists need.  Both sides have stayed civil (to
my knowledge) because there is no other vialble alternative.  Will that
be the case if there is an international treaty on the books that says
the material must be returned?  I see a red horizon on this case.

Now, if you groups of scientists from the same basic cultural viewpoint,
with the same legal and governmental values, the same language, and in
many cases the same gene pool can go nuts on this, what about countries
without those ties?

What about the museum in outer bango bango that doesn't have a working roof?
If New Zealand gets its types back under this code, who can deny OBB?
Perhaps it would be a good thing for us to have a frank discussion of the
implications of this treaty for all.  Can you imagine the Natural History
Museum justifying its budget if it had to return all the material in it
Museum justifying its budget if it had to return all the material in it

to Outer Bango Bango?  Would the systematist in Outer Bango Bango, or Montana
be better off with our material "back", but without the library supported
in London?  Isn't the inconvienence of having to travel to Washington, London,
or Paris offset by the increadible resources we can access there?  What if
we had only the level of support available at the smaller regional collections
as a global high point?

Being in what has been called a third-world state, I feel rather safe in
starting this discussion.  But I think we should not start out with the
tone "how dare they want my speciems in their crummy little country" (which
I detected already in some messages), but we should also avoid the "a ha!
we've got you colonial bastards this time" too.  This is a critical issue
to the form of our community into the next millenium.

Michael A. Ivie
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717 USA




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