Is Random Productivity Purposeful?

Leonard Krishtalka krishtalka at UKANS.EDU
Mon Nov 24 17:11:21 CST 1997

Thanks for posting this Jim.  These essays go far, but not far enough.
Also, their impression of university museums and the collections-based
biodiversity  enterprise is unfortunately erroneous. Today I was invited by
the editor of Museum News to respond to these articles, and will do so with
Phil Humphrey for the March/April issue.  I invite email comments and
reactions to the Nov/Dec piece.  Thanks.

At 04:32 PM 11/24/1997 -0500, Jim Beach wrote:
>There is a thoughtful and provocative set of essays on natural history
>museums in the current issue of Museum News (Nov/Dec 97), a publication of
>the American Association of Museums.  The article is entitled "Toward a
>Natural History Museum for the 21st Century."
>Excerpts from the lead-in essay from Ellsworth H. Brown, President of the
>Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, US):
>"By mending it all together, we find a picture of what the new natural
>history museum world should look like:  It will be collaborative ... Homage
>to the concept is widespread.  However current natural history museum
>culture still respects the university model, which itself (abetted by
>funding practices) works against shared vision and complementary work."
>"The university model tends toward chaos and random productivity.  It is
>not easily synchronized with rational consideration of the world's
>scientific needs and it remains more closely allied with funding
>opportunities than a widely shared mission.  Would not collaboration on a
>wide scale--engagement of funders on this question, and a hard look at
>issues of current issues to humankind--argue for a more systemic approach?"
>"It is well known that universities have virtually abanonded the collection
>of specimens in favor of more modern genetic inquiry, leaving the gathering
>to museums ...  The one subject not tackled [in the essays presented] was
>whether the collecting paradigm under which natural history museums began
>is still valid or has much meaning when set against the massive and
>practical needs of Earth."
>The AAM is located on the net at:
>James H. Beach
>U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division
>Tel: (703) 319-1173
>E-mail:  jbeach at

We live in our interpretation of the place, not the place itself.

W. H. Auden

Leonard Krishtalka
Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
The University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045
phone:  785/864-4540
fax:       785/864-5335
e-mail:  krishtalka at

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