Private collections of museum curators

Bernard Landry bernard.landry at MHN.VILLE-GE.CH
Wed Oct 2 08:38:42 CDT 2002

I am sorry Lynn, but your point of view does not hold for entomology.
Type specimens are indeed essential for us. If we did not have them
we could barely go anywhere, the older original descriptions very
often being utterly inadequate for accurate identifications. The
older taxonomists (and, unfortunately, some contemporary) had a
typological approach, whereas every form (type) was a species,
basically. This has not much to do with our need for access to type
specimens today, and contemporary taxonomy, based on evolution and a
thorough understanding of intraspecific variation.

>X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
>Date:         Wed, 2 Oct 2002 00:38:45 +0100
>Reply-To: Lynn Raw <lynn.raw at VIRGIN.NET>
>Sender: Taxacom Discussion List <TAXACOM at USOBI.ORG>
>From: Lynn Raw <lynn.raw at VIRGIN.NET>
>Subject:      Re: [TAXACOM] Private collections of museum curators
>Comments: To: Eric Gouda <E.J.Gouda at BIO.UU.NL>
>"Eric Gouda" <E.J.Gouda at BIO.UU.NL> wrote -
>>  I think there is no problem in having private collections (when the
>>  specimen are not protected by law), the only thing is if Types are allowed
>>  to be in private collections, this is a real problem. Also when specimen
>>  are mentioned in publications, these "must" (or better) be available to
>>  scientific society. You have the responsibility to make scientific
>>  publications checkable. To my idea, that is the difference between a
>>  scientific publication and a fairy-tale.
>Fair enough, but what is the response regarding a private collection that
>holds Types that ARE made available to all researchers in contrast to some
>institutions that hold Types but do not make these Types freely available to
>non-institutionally-affiliated researchers? In this case could we say that
>the private collection would be a better repository than the institution?
>In a way, types seem to be given more significance than they deserve. They
>are useful but not essential to the practice of taxonomy and may not even be
>typical of the population from which they were taken. To me, the original
>printed description is more important since it is the basis of the
>nomenclature. A Type has no significance without the original published
>description but the description remains valid even if the Type is lost. I
>thought that we were (supposed to be) moving away from the old Typological
>Lynn Raw

Muséum d'histoire naturelle, C.P. 6434, CH-1211 Genève 6, Suisse

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Courriel : bernard.landry at

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