McGuire Center

JPPelham zapjammer at
Mon Jun 20 19:12:46 EDT 2011


The recent and devastating loss of the Noel McFarland collection brings the subject of what to do with our collections to centerstage.  There is an urgency to the matter and I want to make plain a wonderful resolution.

I recently spent two weeks at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, part of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville.  For those who are unacquainted with this institution or are interested further, I advise exploring their site:

and previous issues of their Newsletter:

I produced a .pdf file of some images I took while I was there but am not sure that attachments will fly here and do not know how to put it in a files section.  There is no way that the McGuire Center website or my small contribution could give an accurate impression of the size and organization of the collections housed at the McGuire.  I tried to show the canyons of drawers required to house the vast collection, the working space for the personnel dedicated to its maintenance and curation, and to give an idea of the task undertaken by the staff at the McGuire.

I was hosted by Andrew Warren, Senior Collections Manager and warmly received by Tom Emmel, McGuire Center Director. 

It is not a misstatement to say that this collection, dedicated to Lepidoptera, is the most active and growing such aggregation in the world.  It is a monument to the vision of its director, Tom Emmel, whose efforts towards creating the world’s largest and most extensive institution dedicated to Lepidoptera research are coming to fruition.  Further, the projected expansion of the collection and the fact that it is largely privately funded (not critically subject to budget cuts!) insures that it will remain viable well into the future.

Andy is exactly the right person to manage the collections.  While undertaking my tasks I was able observe the pace of his daily activities.  Any growing collection requires that new material be integrated into it.  It is not a matter of ‘adding-on’ to a collection.  The task is to extract, sort, and label each specimen, first by family, subfamily, genus and species until, at last, pinned specimens are ready to go into the main collection.  This is tedious, time consuming, and requires complete dedication and focus, in other words, exactly the kind of thing Andrew Warren can do best, but that is not all he does by far.  He oversees technicians that are spreading and labeling specimens at a prodigious rate and attends to their needs so that there is a constant stream of papered material being prepared for the collection.  His standards are high.  Before he let me do my work in the collection I was given a very strict protocol as to how I would proceed and how I should deal with any stray abdomen or leg.  I observed that he set the standard high for everyone working in the collection but never higher than for himself.  It was gratifying to see such a professional approach and absolutely incredible to see the results!  It is not done to be sure, nor will it ever be if Dr. Emmel has his way.  The collection is perennially in a state of being integrated but the progress since I was last here (2006) was impressive!

The question of how much is enough is often raised when it comes to collections.  The answer is ‘never enough.’  The biodiversity of the planet is dwindling; this is fact.  Gathering and protecting extant samples of Lepidoptera, one of the most labor intensive groups of insects, has never been more important than at present.   Making them available to researchers worldwide is as important.  A case in point was an examination of Oeneis uhleri from Colorado.  There were twenty drawers, mostly full, of this taxon from Colorado.  It is true that almost any collection of this Arctic would have Colorado specimens; it is a common insect there.  The point was, this volume was required to see patterns of geographic variation that would have been lost in half as much material.  Andy was born and raised in Colorado yet he saw material from counties he had never examined material from before and that is saying quite a lot.

The importance of the McGuire has not been lost on many owners of collections; I offer a small list of collections obtained by the McGuire Center in the recent past:

Ulf Eitschberger (including the F. J. Gross collection)
Luy Udo
de Moliere
M. Deitz
P. Hoffmann
Andrew Atkins
Mt. Union University (Clement Baker collection)
William McGuire
Malcolm Douglas
David Bauer
June & Floyd Preston
Kent Wilson
Robert Eisele
George T. Austin
Austin Platt
Vincent. P. Lucas
Lowell Harris
Jack Odor
Pat Savage
Robert Denno
William Swisher
Dan Lindsley
Paul Milner
Richard Bailowitz
Bruce Walsh (butterflies only)
Ray Nagle (butterflies only)
D. Eiler
Richard Peigler (2/3 of his moth collection)
Ron Leuschner (Geometridae and Euxoa)

The answer to the question ‘where should my collection go?’ has one obvious answer and it will become a monument to your life’s work at the McGuire Center.

Jonathan P. Pelham
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