Fwd: Re: Raw's private collection note

Ron at Ron at
Wed Sep 25 16:40:02 CDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Daniel Janzen" <djanzen at SAS.UPENN.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2002 4:45 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: Raw's private collection note

> This thread seems to have forgotten that a HUGE amount of very high
> collecting, inventory and taxonomy has been done by people doing what
> really LIKE doing - collecting, organizing, understanding a large body of
> species and specimens, something that often results in a large personal
> collection.  This in turn very commonly ends up in a public repository
> that individual moves on, and the public effort thereby gains a huge
> cost-free input.   A great part of the collective knowledge of the
> taxasphere rests on a base created by sweat-equity and "private"
> in various kinds of synergistic combinations with formally funded and
> public endeavors.   Private collections are clearly a legitimate motor in
> the taxonomic enterprise, irrespective that they can be distorted
> only temporarily) through normal human behavior - just as can
> protocols and collections.     Dan Janzen

I do butterflies.  When I am able to get to instructional collections I am
often amazed at the low quality of care they receive.  Broken specimens,
crowded, mold, or nothing but dust.  A private working collection (versus
artsy) is not only a scientific undertaking but a labor of love to its
owner.   Then there is the problem of neglect by specialty.  This occurs in
a small university collection of staff restricted larger museum where the
primary curator is say a beetle specialist - I find the beetles
immaculately curated and taxonomically ordered, while the butterflies/moths
are stuffed into a corner awaiting some expert (probably in the next
century).  Actually, one very large US museum has as the head of its
Lepidoptera section a moth specialist.  The moths there look great, the
butterflies are a mess and poorly cared for.

It is well know that home owners take better care of the domicile than do
renters.  People drive rental cars with little regard to the car's future
condition.   People take better care of that which they have worked for
than that which is given to them.   No collection is any better than the
people responsible for it.   Private collections are much safer than public
ones because they receive more care.  Further, once the earthquake, fire,
terrorist attack etc. destroys the 6 million specimens in X institution
(all eggs in one basket) all is lost.  While widely dispersed well cared
for private scientific collections escape these calamities and become the
components of the next massive institutional collection.

Ron Gatrelle

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