Picking up on Tommy's comment, ...

Does the insect collections / museum community have a 'white paper' on the topic of vouchering of specimens derived / offerred in donation from ecological studies ?

The story that Lawrence seeks should be memorialized in a document that speaks to the Ecologist with a full and timely voice. (And perhaps it is? After all, it's been an issue that has been repeatedly raised and experienced for the past 50 years that I've been watching. Why has the message not been heard and had an effect?)

Is it still OK for grant funders of ecological studies to not require from applicants an intent to provide sound vouchering practices by the projects they fund?

Or, have we learned that this traditional form of vouchering (deposition of specimens in museums) is no longer necessary, and that message simply has not been heard / understood by the targetted collections / museums ?


On Wed, Jan 8, 2020 at 7:25 AM Tommy McElrath <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dear Laurence,
In my experience, I have no issues wanting to accept the specimens from ecological studies - the only issues I have had is the condition those specimens are in

More often than not - vouchering is an afterthought. Ecological studies generate vast numbers of specimens, and proper mounting and curating of those specimens is usually not taken into account by the ecologists or the persons in their lab. Hence, when they get to the end of the project, generally the specimens are all in vials, have codes or reference numbers, and have not been gleaned through to select the most meaningful taxa for vouchering. The data is in spreadsheets instead of a database or in a Darwin Core Archive, and often needs major cleaning (if they send it at all). 

Because most museums are on shoestring budgets - taking on such a donation would mean months or years of curatorial effort for the one (or two) full-time staff who would take in the donation. 

The best experiences I’ve had are talking to ecologists before the material comes to the collection and had them curate the specimens beforehand, using templates or materials I’ve provided, so that by the time it comes to the collection, all I have to do is import the DWCA/spreadsheet into our database, move the specimens into their appropriate unit trays, and create some header tray labels. THAT is the gold standard for how we want ecologists to voucher specimens. 

Unfortunately, some ecologists come asking about vouchering having given no thought to time or effort that it will take to properly voucher their specimens in a collection - and generally just want us to “take care of it” when we really have no time or resources to do so. 

Hope this helps - and best of luck, 

Insect Collection Manager
Illinois Natural History Survey
Prairie Research Institute
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1816 S. Oak Street | M/C 652
Champaign, IL 61820
217-300-5938 | [log in to unmask]
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Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act any written communication to or from university employees regarding university business is a public record and may be subject to public disclosure. 

On Jan 8, 2020, at 9:13 AM, laurence packer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


Thanks to everyone who sent in a response.  All responses were quite positive, and alerted me to some added complexities.
In fact, the lack of negative responses seems to be somewhat at odds with what the ecological community in particular seems
to think about the ease of getting museums to accept vouchers, at least in some parts of the world.

So, I would be grateful for some more responses, particularly from those managing collections where, for whatever reason,
hosting vouchered material from non-taxonomic research is problematic.

If you would prefer to send this information outside of the list-serv, then you can simply send me a confidential email

thanks again