butterflies and museums

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Wed Apr 10 00:31:22 EDT 2002

A couple of threads have crossed paths.  So I will just put this title up
as it is more indicative.  Let me begin by saying that I have been an
"official" research associate with the Florida state collection of
arthropods for a long time.  Now about a million :-) other people have this
same claim to fame.   The FSCA research associate program is responsible
for having brought millions of specimens into that institution - all for
free.  They didn't pay for any that I know of.  The benefit for the
associates is that we gain access to the collections, research facilities,
and get a tax donation.

Mary Beth said: As for all the "collecting" that resident museum curators
supposedly do... from what I've observed, the age of "trophy collecting"
has pretty much gone with the wind.  The major "big collections" are
received or acquired from private collectors, many with HUGE "price tags"
that contradict the "cause for furthering scientific knowledge" of the
collectors' supposed motives (!)

I know most of the "big" butterfly collectors today and none of them are
getting "huge" prices for their collections as they retire or die.  The
"major" butterlfy collectors do not sell their collections - they keep them
till they pretty much have on foot in the grave.   And then all they get is
a tax deduction.

When the late JF Gates Clarke of the Smithsonian came to my home several
years ago he came to see my collection and talk me into donating it to the
USNM when I kicked off.  He sure as heck didn't offer to guy it.   The big
collections are donated.  One of the very biggest is the Preston collected
that is going to the Allyn Museum (U of Fla).  With the limited staff at
most museums today and financial limitations I doubt if any have bought any
butterfly/moth collections in a long long time.   If anyone on this list
has inside info on this one way or the other please let us known.

And even if they did sell the collection when they were 88 and in the
nursing home - how is that supposed to show they were just phonies as Mary
insulates in:   "many with HUGE 'price tags' that contradict the 'cause for
furthering scientific knowledge' of the collectors' supposed motives (!)"
Where is she getting this stuff?   This is sure not the case with bug
collections/collectors. Bugs are at the bottom of the pecking order -
perhaps the dinosaur bone collections, or bird collections are where the
money is - but not bugs!!   The average butterfly might be worth what 50 or
75 cents?   This is the same old cynical line collectors always end up
hearing.  All this does is reinforce to us the perception we pick up from
non-collectors - and that is that in the final analysis we are _all_
viewed as just a bunch of low life's on the same plain as poachers - we do
it just for the money.

Ron Gatrelle


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