private collections

Anita F. Cholewa chole001 at UMN.EDU
Wed Sep 25 20:55:48 CDT 2002

Okay I'm back in the fray ... I am not trying to be elitist and I do recognize that parataxonomists (or amateurs if you prefer) contribute greatly to systematics (I don't believe anyone has a "right" to collect however--different issue).  There are negatives and positives to both private and public collections.  If musuems are not allowing researchers access to specimens then that needs to be corrected since it goes against the mission of a museum. Due to changing priorities institutionalized collections sometimes do fall into disrepair but private collections frequently can't provide the long-term care that public collections can. Maybe some taxa are okay regardless of storage conditions but in botany, at least, if specimens are not kept in the proper environment they degrade rapidly -- we have "received" many personal collections from estates that are absolutely worthless because of bugs, too warm of a storage room, exposed to too much sunlight, etc.  If private collections are required to follow some set of rules to ensure the specimens are stored properly, researchers have access to the specimens, and the specimens will be preserved in perpetuity then fine.  But what's the difference then, why not deposit those specimens in an institution where, theoretically, there would be the funds and professionals for "in perpetuity" proper preservation and more widely disseminated information about those specimens?  Perhaps we need to seriously lobby for more funding for museums (and I'm using the broad definition here to include collections in small insitutions).  Perhaps the paraprofessionals need to become more aligned with institutions so there will be better connections and flow of information?  But I don't agree that we should create a whole new group.


Anita F. Cholewa, Ph.D.
Curator of Temperate Plants
Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota
1445 Gortner Ave
St Paul MN (USA)

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