From Plant Press, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 2014.
A Curator’s Perspective
By Vicki A. Funk*
Update: By the phrase ‘A Curator’s Perspective’ the author meant that the opinions expressed below are hers alone, and do not represent those of the National Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian Institution
Over the last few years many visitors have passed through the doors of the U.S. National Herbarium (Herbarium Code: US) bringing depressing news about some of our fellow botanical institutions and research centers. Institutions, which house historic and otherwise important botanical specimens, have been closed. The scientists who study, preserve, and curate them, have been fired, downsized, forced into retirement, or had their focus directed away from taxonomy and systematics. When reasons are given they usually involve budget shortfalls; unfortunately, collections and research are easy targets. But when I mentioned this to one former museum director who was visiting, his reply was, “When I was a director and had a budget shortfall I went out and raised more money, I did not fire my staff!”
Is this a trend or a coincidence? Perhaps a more detailed examination of events will provide an answer and so we begin with the Milwaukee Public Museum and continue up to the ongoing recent troubles at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.