OVERVIEW. The University of Iowa Herbarium (IA): Endangered. The Museum of Natural History: Threatened.

Diana Horton diana-horton at UIOWA.EDU
Mon Apr 14 17:25:51 CDT 2003

In summer 2002, the President of the University of Iowa and the Dean of the
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences signed an agreement to transfer the
Herbarium to Iowa State University.  Shortly thereafter, that president
left the university for another position.  Subsequently, we appealed the
decision to the Interim President, but he declined to overturn it.  In
early 2003, we learned that a vice president would be installed as
President in March and the Dean is interviewing for a position
elsewhere.  We initiated an on-going media campaign to stop the transfer,
as documented on the Herbarium web site,
http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium.  Recently, the new President has
responded to letters of protest that he does not intend to overturn the

It appears that the assault on the Herbarium may be just the
beginning.  There is ominous evidence that the Museum of Natural History
could be next.  The Museum has been without a Director since 2000 when the
previous Director retired, and in 2001, it was transferred from the College
of Liberal Arts and Sciences to Student Services with its annual budget
slashed from $10,000 to $2,500.

University of Iowa administrators have given various reasons for their
decision to transfer the Herbarium, but none of these is convincing.  It is
more likely that the decision was driven by the increasing emphasis on
molecular genetic approaches in Biological Sciences.

The Herbarium houses a regionally significant collection that plays an
active and vital role in research, teaching and outreach, at modest cost to
the university.  An environmental center at the university has offered to
replace Biological Sciences as administrative home.  This center also has
pledged to cover the salary of the staff position for support of the
collection, and other expenses, for utilities, telephone, etc., are
minimal.  The Herbarium currently is housed in a building that will be
taken over by Chemistry within the next few years, so the collection will
have to be moved.  However, it presently occupies just 2,100 square feet,
and this could be reduced by half with mobile shelving.  This minimal
amount of space surely could be identified in existing facilities, and a
previous NSF proposal for mobile shelving for the Herbarium could generate
external funding to cover that expense.

We continue our strenuous efforts to stop the transfer of the Herbarium on
the grounds that it will sever a historic link to the development of
biological sciences at the University of Iowa; it will eliminate plant
collections-based research at this university; it will compromise the
quality of the educational experience for liberal arts students and
seriously undermine the Green Track of the popular Environmental Sciences
Program; and it will terminate a flourishing outreach program.  Overall,
fewer people will learn about collections-based research, plants and
conservation of Iowa's remnant natural habitats, and fewer will have ready
access to a vital resource that serves myriad constituencies.

If you wish to support our efforts, we would be most grateful if you will
write to President Skorton (and copy to me).  E-mail is an effective way to
contact him.

David J. Skorton, President
101 Jessup Hall
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA  52242

Email:  david-skorton at uiowa.edu

Diana Horton
Director and Curator, University of Iowa Herbarium
Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
312 CB
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA  52242-1297

Ph.:    319-335-1320
E-mail: diana-horton at uiowa.edu
Herbarium web site:             http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium

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