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

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Tue Sep 11 20:38:31 CDT 2018

Tricky part is the "keep". Does that mean one has to relinquish an already
existing personal collection, or just not continue to expand that
collection while in employ? Seems to me that the latter is reasonable, the
former would be punitive or inherently vindictive if imposed as a condition
of employ - and not sure would be any other comparable requirement for
employment that requires relinquishing personal property. I would agree
that where a person has responsibility for acquisition of new specimens
that the condition to only collect for the institution does make perfect
sense. I was in a situation of managing collections but not to personally
collect additional material and I retained my personal research collection
which was added to in some small ways during that time. And just as well,
as when the employing institution eliminated science positions I still had
my personal collection by which I have been able to continue to generate
productive research.

I would be rather surprised if art curators had no art in their homes - no
pictures, sculptures, paintings - no decoration that could be considered

John Grehan

On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 12:53 PM, 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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