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NATSCA  November 2014

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Subject:

Re: Comment in the Museums Journal

From:

Judith Price <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The Natural Science Collections Association discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:25:35 +0000

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If I may suggest, Jerry Fitzgerald and I offered a guideline in our 1996 paper "Categories of specimens: A collection management tool" found in: 
http://www.spnhc.org/media/assets/cofo_1996_V12N1_new.pdf 
 
It is useful at least with the bean-counters inside the institution. 
 
Judith 
Judith C. Price 
Assistant Collections Manager, Invertebrates / Gestionnaire adjointe des collections invertébrés 
Canadian Museum of Nature / Musée canadien de la Nature 
PO Box 3443 Station D / CP 3443 Succ <<D>> 
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6P4 CANADA 
Tel.613.566.4263 / Fax.613.364.4027 
[log in to unmask] 
Twitter @nature_jcp 
www.nature.ca  
 
-----Original Message----- 
From: The Natural Science Collections Association discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Carnall, Mark 
Sent: November-12-14 8:49 AM 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Re: Comment in the Museums Journal 
 
Peter/Dermot 
 
Thanks for your thoughts, it's an interesting area of discussion but hopefully one also for action.  
 
Peter, I don't necessarily agree that a comparison with the art world is entirely pointless, in fact I argue that it's a situation that we should look very closely and carefully at. A single painting may be worth a high amount (although of all natural history collections mineralogical collections are perhaps more readily valued) but that worth has been one that's decided by artists, art curators, dealers and donors. That's not to say it isn't problematic, many art curators are concerned about escalating prices and European museums being priced out (but then they do have support from patrons, art fund etc.). It's really an attitudinal change that's required within our community if we want to explore existing models of the worth/value of collections. 
  
The current model of seeing our collections as priceless and valueless doesn't really help very much and I believe it's one of the reasons why NH museums seem to be being disproportionally cut (see recent links about botanical collections wholesale shut down or destaffed), we don't have patronage in the same way as art/archaeological museums and broader communities with shared interests that we don't bring together thinking about our equivalents of museum curators, amateur collectors and dealers. A spate of recent examples of high value auctions of NH material that after sale has been discovered to be illicitly or illegally acquired highlights problems that we as a consortium should be ideally placed to prevent happening in the first place.  That's not to mention the increasingly outmoded way of thinking about our collections and audiences almost explicitly in terms of 'use to science' (as happened at SPNHC/NatSCA this year) and a very poor documented history of movement and preparation of specimens, a very poor documentation of the craft of our specimens including models replicas etc. and a lot of work needed to take advantage of the online space to open up the black boxes that many natural history collections still are.   
 
I understand the concerns of what is perceived to be putting a price tag on collections but there's potentially a lot to gain looking to other kinds of museums which are doing a lot better in many areas, particularly in the current climate we find ourselves in. There's a lot that needs thinking about but I'm really happy to be having this discussion particularly, judging from talks at SPNHC, as esoteric scientific research use of larger collections is drying up and alternative uses and value of collections are becoming more pressing.  
 
Mark Carnall 
 
-----Original Message----- 
From: The Natural Science Collections Association discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Peter Davidson 
Sent: 12 November 2014 12:08 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Re: Comment in the Museums Journal 
 
Dermot 
 
Good to hear from you again. I agree that this is a good discussion and a topic that is raised from time-to-time but always well worth exploring - mainly because the financial/social status of museums and collections are constantly changing. This puts pressure on museums, and consequently on curators, to "justify" the existence of their collections and themselves. I can understand that there is a need to know the value of collections from many angles. But there are lots of dangers as well. 
 
Any comparison to the art world is pointless - a single painting can be worth several times the value of my entire collection - it is a true chalk and cheese situation. But as curators, we are painfully aware that the cost of buying top quality display specimens, as opposed to research material, is reaching staggering heights. This places them well out of the reach of even the National Museums and "bean counters" are increasingly aware of this growing monetary value stored away in their own basements and vaults. But a value of several million pounds/dollars/euros is no measure of a specimen's worth and this is a real dilemma for curators. How do we explain to those who have no real idea about this (and why should we expect them to?) that a collection may have a high worth but a relatively low value. They simply see it as an asset which if properly managed can bring in additional funds.  
 
As of yet, I have never been asked to put a value on the collection and I would be reluctant to do so if asked. The collections here at the NMS, do have a degree of statutory protection which means that a wholesale plundering of the collection is not really possible, but the same protection is not afforded to other collections and they are more vulnerable. 
 
Cheers 
 
Peter Davidson 
Senior Curator of Mineralogy 
 
Department of Natural Sciences 
National Museums Scotland 
Chambers Street 
Edinburgh 
EH1 1JF 
Tel: 0131 247 4283 
E-mail: [log in to unmask] 
-----Original Message----- 
From: The Natural Science Collections Association discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Henry, Dermot 
Sent: 12 November 2014 10:34 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Re: Comment in the Museums Journal 
 
A great discussion. We certainly need to tell the 'bean counters' the monetary value of collections, however nebulous the value assigned, but we definitely need to tell the public the 'worth'. 
 
Dermot Henry 
Manager, Natural Science Collections 
Museum Victoria 
 
 
Sent from my iPad 
 
On 12 Nov 2014, at 9:10 pm, "Freedman, Jan" <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote: 
 
Hi all, 
 
Some of you may be interested to read a little museum dance off with myself and Mark Carnall at the Grant Museum. We are discussing whether or not the public should be told the value of the collections. Some nice salsa moves from both of us. 
http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/comment/01112014-the-conversation 
 
The Museums Association picked it up from my post which I wrote about the real value of collections: 
http://fromshanklin.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/the-real-value-of-museum-collections/ 
 
Enjoy. 
 
Jan 
 
Jan Freedman 
Curator of Natural History 
Economic Development 
Plymouth City Council 
Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery 
Drake Circus 
Plymouth 
PL4 8AJ 
 
T +441752304765 
E [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> 
www.plymouth.gov.uk<http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/> 
 
[https://remote.plymouth.gov.uk/pccimages/email-illuminate.png]<www.plymouth.gov.uk/eventitem?newsid%3D347799> 
________________________________ 
IMPORTANT: This e-mail (including any attachments to it) is strictly confidential and intended solely for the person or organisation to whom it is addressed. It may contain privileged, confidential or sensitive information. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not copy or distribute it to any other person or take any action in reliance. If you have received it in error, please notify your system manager and the sender as soon as possible and then delete it from your system. 
 
 
This e-mail is solely for the named addressee and may be confidential. You should only read, disclose, transmit, copy, distribute, act in reliance on or commercialise the contents if you are authorised to do so. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, please notify [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> by email immediately, or notify the sender and then destroy any copy of this message. Views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender, except where specifically stated to be those of an officer of Museum Victoria. Museum Victoria does not represent, warrant or guarantee that the integrity of this communication has been maintained nor that it is free from errors, virus or interference. 
 
 
 
 
Coming soon: See intricate miniature paintings and beautifully crafted jewellery once owned by Maharaja Duleep Singh. Indian Encounters, 14 November 2014 - 1 March 2015, www.nms.ac.uk/indianencounters 
 
National Museums Scotland, Scottish Charity, No. SC 011130 This communication is intended for the addressee(s) only. If you are not the addressee please inform the sender and delete the email from your system. The statements and opinions expressed in this message are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of National Museums Scotland. This message is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. No liability is accepted for any harm that may be caused to your systems or data by this message. 

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