Collections are already next

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Tue Aug 17 14:57:06 EDT 1999

Chris write: 
""will collections be next". 

Collectoins are already next.  universities have been divesting themselves of collections for years to make room for "real science" 

Fortunately there are usually other institutions willing to pick up the slack.  and take the collections, that are considered suprlus. 
Two that come to mind:  It must be close to 30 years since Stanford decided to give up the David Starr Jordan fish collection.  Fortunately the Cal Academy took it. 

About 15 years ago, Princeton decided it no longer needed to house its world famous paleontology collection. I believe Yale was available to take that. 

I bet that college herbariums are under a lot of pressure as well.  Some or most of the Oberlin College herbarium found itself homeless (I don't know where it went). 

Collections are priceless to some people, but pointless to others. Even major museums have to worry about changes in attitude that make missions other than systematic research primary. 

Insect collections---particularly those not in institutions---are also vulnerable.  As I recall, a major Malaysian lep collections, was sold off piecemeal by the heir(s) after the death of a collector. 

Space and money operate in other ways to marginalize collections and collectors. 

Slightly off this point, is the case of the Rothchild Bird Collection.  Baron Walter Rothchild had the world's larges private bird collection in Britain.  He needed to raise money to pay back taxes (some people say he also had to pay off a mistress). He offered the collection to the British Museum, but the government wouldn't forgive the taxes (so one version of the story goes), so he sold it to the American Museum of Natural History ,which now houses this spectacular collection. 

The irony (related to me by the late Gene Eisenmann) is that some (perhaps many) of the specimens were mislabelled by unscrupulous collectors who knew that Rothschild would pay more for specimens from new islands where they had not been recorded before.  

Mike Gochfeld 

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