Private collections/museums

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Tue May 16 06:56:59 EDT 2000

Ken's message (under the wyandot thread) reminds me of something which I 
posted a year or so ago, but seems timely.  When I was in Malaya about 
six years ago, I learned that the largest "private" collection was being 
divided up and sold by the widow.  It was a collection of substantial 
systematic and biogeographic value but I don't even know if institutions 
were informed or encouraged to bid for it or if they would have had the 
resources to compete with many who might have wanted just a few choice 
(but high-priced) specimens.  I don't know the outcome of this, but it 
seemed extremely sad.  

So Ken's message that people should make arrangements to assure that 
their collections go to an appropriate museum really needs to be 
emphasized (perhaps collectors feel that it's bad luck to make such 
arrangements in advance---like not making out a will).  And I suppose 
that some will-probates have had to deal with collections (I know 
they've dealt with stamp collections). (Read Paul Ehrlich's piece on why 
butterfly collecting shouldn't be like stamp collecting). 

Also, like a recent thread on releases, there are museums and there are 
museums.  I recently visited a small wildlife refuge municipal museum 
that had received a donated collection of butterflies and had it out for 
exhibit (although it was totally irrelevant to the local fauna). So 
collections should go to research museums that have a reasonable 
possibility of curating them responsibly. 

And, while we're at it, photographers shouldn't get off the hook (nor 
those who keep detailed field notes).  If photo records are being 
considered vouchers, arrangements should be made to see that they are 
appropriately archived an institutionalized.  I believe the VIREO 
collection of bird pictures at the Philadelphia Academy, serves that 
role for birds.  


Mike Gochfeld

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