International Support for Natural History Museums

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Science  28 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5308, pp. 1861-1865
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5308.1861f


An article by Nigel Williams (News & Comment, 27 Sept., p. 1792) and a Policy Forum by Stephen Blackmore (4 Oct., p. 63) raise three issues: (i) How can the biodiversity information associated with natural history museum collections be made available to a wider range of users? (ii) How can international support and funding for this activity be increased? and (iii) Do we need a new international organization, responsible for coordination and strategic planning, to facilitate these two objectives?

Multilateral and bilateral international funding agencies have already demonstrated a willingness to fund systematic collections and biodiversity information systems, in the context of “demand driven” projects that have close links to users, lead to clearly identifiable outputs, and can be achieved in discrete time-frames. Present examples include the Indonesian Biodiversity Collections Project, a 5-year international program to strengthen the institutional capacity of the national herbarium (Herbarium Bogoriense) and the national zoological museum (Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense), under the Research and Development Center for Biology of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. This project is funded in part by a $7.2-million grant from the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund under the supervision of the World Bank. Closely associated with this project is the Indonesian Biodiversity Conservation Project, which includes $14 million in grant aid from the government of Japan to construct a new, custom-built museum to rehouse the zoology collections.

The urgent need for these projects was first identified in the Biodiversity Action Plan for Indonesia. The Government of Indonesia has since reaffirmed this goal as a national priority and provided substantial counterpart funding.

Careful consideration should be given to how these and other projects are being implemented before the systematics community develops proposals to create new international organizations for the promotion of natural history collections or new financial instruments to facilitate access to information held in these collections.

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