private collections

Richard Hill REHill at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu Sep 26 18:28:02 CDT 2002

Well, 40% of my time was directed to taxonomy for a while.  I complained to
my mentor that I wish I had more time for taxonomy and he laughed because he
was only allowed 20% out of his teaching load and knew several curator's who
were only allowed 10%.  Now who was the professional?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Anita F. Cholewa" <chole001 at UMN.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2002 6:55 PM
Subject: private collections

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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