Value of Biological Collections

strays of bird skeletons

  • Documentation of the Past: Collections can document populations no longer available to science, including species recently extinct because of human influence.  As habitat destruction continues to accelerate, we will never have access to many species and the genetic, biochemical, and environmental information they contain unless they are represented in museum collections.
  • Biogeography: Collections are crucial for documenting the past and present geographic distributions of organisms.  This is essential information not only for studies of ecology and evolution, but alsofor resource management, conservation planning and monitoring, and studies of global change.
  • Sources and Vouchers: Museum collections serve as source materials, and voucher specimens for a host of other nonsystematic studies.  Geneticists, anatomists, biochemists, and demographers can all use existing museum materials in their work and deposit representative specimens in museum collections.
  • Identification Resource: Museum collections are a unique resource allowing for the comparison and identification of biological material, discovered by scientists or by the public.  Accurate identification is fundamental to any research project.
  • Education: Seeing and handling a real natural history specimen is a completely different experience from looking at a picture or reading a description.  Museum collections are constantly used for teaching purposes, from a preschool museum tour wih hands-on specimens to graduate school classes.