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Systematics Section / ASPT

Snow, Neil [1].

Successfully marketing and managing smaller natural history collections in an era of declining funding.

Most biologists receive doctoral training in relatively large institutions. However, many will secure career positions at institutions having relatively small natural history collections (here arbitrarily as < 50,000). Smaller collections typically have an entirely different set of challenges associated with their management. Newly appointed curators often have little practical knowledge about effectively managing collections. This will be particularly true for those who specialized in disciplines other than systematics or those with little if any curatorial experience. Recent budgetary cutbacks in most state-supported universities in the USA have been severe. Some natural history collections have been closed entirely. Most smaller collections operate on a small budget, if they have a budget at all. Many smaller collections have been dormant and unused for years. Marketing (in the promotional sense) is increasingly critical for laying solid foundations for successfully managing smaller collections and for assuring their long-term successes and administrative support. A good recipe for eventual closure of your collections is to limit the activities of staff to taxonomic research on what, to the public at large, are obscure and uninteresting groups of taxa. To biologists they are neither obscure nor uninteresting. However, administrators may view them as such, especially those with no background in biology. In contrast, establishing numerous horizontal linkages beyond the mere storing and databasing of specimens helps to justify the vital importance of the collections inside and outside of the institution (e.g., by giving tours to schoolchildren and being involved with regional activities such as Natural Heritage programs). Drawing on recent personal experience managing a smaller herbarium, this talk will provide numerous practical suggestions about how to curate and manage smaller natural history collections. It will conclude that marketing should be a key component of all smaller natural history collections to help assure their vitality and future administrative support.

1 - University of Northern Colorado, Department of Biological Sciences, Greeley, Colorado, 80639, USA

Herbarium management
Museum management
Natural history collections.

Presentation Type: Paper
Session: 24-7
Location: Cottonwood A (Snowbird Center)
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Time: 5:15 PM
Abstract ID:66

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