Private collections

Sean Barry sjbarry at UCDAVIS.EDU
Wed Sep 25 15:53:19 CDT 2002

On Wed, 25 Sep 2002, Daniel Janzen wrote:

> This thread seems to have forgotten that a HUGE amount of very high quality
> collecting, inventory and taxonomy has been done by people doing what they
> really LIKE doing - collecting, organizing, understanding a large body of

> Private collections are clearly a legitimate motor in
> the taxonomic enterprise, irrespective that they can be distorted (usually
> only temporarily) through normal human behavior - just as can institutional
> protocols and collections.     Dan Janzen

I agree, although I think that private collections should have a
pre-conceived purpose, and one that is not already well-met by existing
institutional collections or facilities.  Laurence Klauber's extradorinary
collection of rattlesnakes comes to mind, as does one of my professor's
very important private collection of hundreds of thousands of parasitic
mites, housed in a single bookcase.  I think that "small" institutional
collections, often somewhere between large teaching and very small
research-sized assemblages, are at far greater risk of neglect and
outright disposal, such as when scientific fashion changes, when
interested curators retire, or when the space occupied by the collection
becomes an issue. Note that many of those "small" collections are housed
at very large institutions, which can result in very large
institutionalized neglect.  I'd be more concerned about the permanent loss
of that material than I would about a private collection in the hands of a
real authority who understands its value and protects it at all costs.

Sean Barry
Sean J. Barry
The Rowe Program in Molecular Genetics (mail address)
  and The Section of Evolution and Ecology
University of California
Davis, California  95616
(530) 752 9160
FAX (530) 754 6015
sjbarry at

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