multiple [collectors]

Hugh Wilson wilson at MAIL.BIO.TAMU.EDU
Mon May 24 07:48:31 CDT 1999

Our efforts to merge herbarium specimen label data from multiple
collections into a common database have revealed that collector's
numbers can be very useful in those cases where the home herbarium
does not maintain an accession log and, as a result, the specimens
carry no accession number.  The combo collector/collector # provides
backup - to herbarium accession # - to identify individual specimens.

On 23 May 99 at 18:19, Doug Yanega <dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU> wrote:
> Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, I can point out that the odds
> of losing data that are purely electronic are vastly higher than the
> odds of losing data that exist in hard copy. Operating with no
> backup is a bad idea (and yes, I realize you are *probably* not
> operating without backup, but it's impossible to tell for sure).
>         From my perspective as an entomologist, I also find this
>         botanical
> preoccupation with collector's numbers - as if they were absolutely
> necessary - to be rather extreme. There are hundreds of millions of
> insect specimens that have no collector's numbers (thank goodness),
> and it does not seem to have hampered the science of entomology one
> bit. In what way are these numbers viewed as necessary for botany?
> In fact, use of numbers could be counterproductive; back around the
> turn of the century it does seem to have been used for insects, and
> I'm grateful the practice died out. I've seen a great many old
> insects in collections that have some collector's number or
> accession number on them, and nothing more. Naturally, the vast
> majority have no associated books to decipher the codes, if only
> because the insects got spread all over, while the books stayed with
> the original collector or institution. These specimens are now
> mostly worthless (after all, the code doesn't tell you who the
> collector was, nor the institution, so there's no way to track them
> down). While I'm sure botanists didn't make this mistake often (if
> at all), the temptation to use codes alone (presumably as a
> labor-saving device) obviously was another bad idea.
> Peace,
> Doug Yanega       Dept. of Entomology           Entomology Research
> Museum Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521 phone:
> (909) 787-4315
>   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at (409-845-3354)

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