[Taxacom] Can the (herbarium) curators keep their own private herbaria?

Peter Rauch peterar at berkeley.edu
Tue Sep 11 13:18:59 CDT 2018

Do these policy expressions for (some?) natural history collections also
show up --generalize-- for other sorts of collections --e.g., art,
books/libraries, other cultural artifacts, ...?   What are the lessons to
be had from similarities / differences ?


On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 9:53 AM, Adolf Ceska <aceska at telus.net> wrote:

> I received the most definitive NO! the Hungarian Natural History Museum
> (BP):
> In Hungarian Natural History Museum (BP) not only the curators and
> directors but all employees are forbidden to keep private collection(s) in
> the coverage of the institute. It is not a new or own rule but adoption of
> ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums
> https://icom.museum/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ICOM-code-En-web.pdf
> "8.16 Private Collecting
> Members of the museum profession should not compete with their institution
> either in the acquisition of objects or in any personal collecting
> activity. An agreement between the museum professional and the governing
> body concerning any private collecting must be formulated and scrupulously
> followed."
> Similarly, the A CODE OF ETHICS FOR CURATORS by the American Association
> of Museums Curators Committee 2009, mention the "closely prescribed
> guidelines":
> https://www.aam-us.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/curcomethics.pdf
> When curators build and maintain a personal collection in any area of
> interest that overlaps with their museum’s identity and mission, serious
> potential for an ethical conflict exists. For this reason, many
> institutions prohibit personal collecting by staff within the museum’s
> mission; others allow it within closely prescribed guidelines.
> Cornell University sent me a link to the problems they had with J.C.
> Arthur:
> Here’s a cautionary tale.  J.C. Arthur was a prominent plant pathologist
> and rust taxonomist. You can find a synopsis of his personal herbarium
> ownership saga on Wikipedia, here:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Charles_Arthur#Arthur_Herbarium
> The strict application of this rule requires, what I would call "virtual
> collecting celibacy" from the herbarium staff, who selected their career
> because of their love of collections and collecting.
> Among the emails, I got there was a story of the curator who moved in
> between of about six institutions and was allowed to take his personal
> collections with him, but he was a very lucky man.
> All the best,
> Adolf Ceska, Victoria, BC, Canada
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