[Taxacom] Scientist curators versus collection managers

murrellze murrellze at appstate.edu
Mon Sep 1 14:07:24 CDT 2008

As Director of a network of herbaria in the Southeast USA 
(http://www.sernec.org/) I have found that many of the 215 curators in 
this network are not systematists, but are often ecologists, 
paleobiologists, or curators.  Many of these  curators are associated 
with small collections of less than 20,00 specimens.  It seems that the 
vigor of the collection is often directly tied to the ability of the 
curator to conduct research in these small collection settings.  This 
very diverse group of curators points out a second issue, in that the 
traditional "taxon-based" societies will not reach much of a target 
audience if one wants to address herbarium curators, or I suspect other 
museum curators.  The Society of Herbarium Curators 
(http://www.societyofherbariumcurators.org/) is a group formed to 
provide a network of herbarium curators, regardless of whether they 
consider themselves curators or scientist/curators. 

As we see resources dwindle for organismic biology and biodiversity 
informatics, it is critical that we find ways to support the EXPERTISE 
associated with collections.  This diverse community needs access to the 
latest tools and technologies.  The experts associated with collections, 
regardless of their main workplace function, are the people that can 
attract new students to organismic biology.  If we can't find a way to 
support those people, then our ability to recruit the biologists of the 
future is severely limited.

Zack Murrell

JOCQUE Rudy wrote:
> There is a tendency for musea and other institutions that harbor natural history collections, to replace scientist curators by curators whose only task it is to manage the collections. Although the idea might seem ideal and alleviate the task for scientists, increasing the time they can allot to research, I have sincere doubts as to whether it is a good idea to make the switch. Collections become some kind of a dead instrument when they are no longer under the custody of people that really work in them. 
> This is a request to those curators and researchers that have witnessed this kind of change. I would be most obliged if they could share their impression of how (in)efficient the change was.
> (sorry if this topic has already been discussed but I could not find anything in the archives)
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