Friday, April 8, 2011

The Vulnerability of Museum Collections

Unfortunately, museum specimens are occasionally misplaced or accidentally destroyed, which means the loss of valuable information. All too often, however, specimens are stolen by people who have gained access to museum collections.

In his book, Curse of the Labrador Duck, Glen Chilton details how at least one specimen of a Labrador Duck was stolen from a diorama at the American Museum of Natural History. Additionally, many other museum specimens were lost or destroyed in Europe during WWII.

This recent news story illustrates how susceptible museum collections can be for individuals with unscrupulous intentions. On the positive side, the culprit behind this crime was caught and sentenced. On the down side, his actions has resulted in the loss and destruction of many valuable specimens and information that can never be regained.

Museums have to be cautious about who they allow access to their collections, but as the story above illustrates, even with certain security protocols museum specimens can still be vulnerable.

Photo: Stachyris speciosa, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, photo by Casey Tucker/Wild Auk Photography