Preliminary quantifications of curator success in life science natural history collections

Watters, J.L. and C.D. Siler. 2014
CLS Journal for Museum Studies.
8:21–33.

In an era when budgets are tight for families, businesses, universities, and governments, it is sometimes difficult to see the value in museums and their curators. Museums provide a necessary service to scientists and the public by housing specimens in a long-term stable environment, providing specimens and data for research, training new generations of scientists, bridging the gap between research, education, and public outreach, and working to develop new technologies to track speciation, biodiversity, and environmental change, just to name a few. The curators who conduct research in museums are integral to our overall understanding of the life sciences, yet their livelihood is being challenged. In an effort to quantify the incredible resource represented by a museum curator, we conducted a survey, sent to email list-serves and online groups, asking natural history curators to respond with details on museum and university affiliation, time in position, collections overseen, grant and publication success, teaching breadth, and student mentoring involvement. Our research indicates that curators have a great deal of scientific and monetary value to add to museums, affiliated universities, and our general education system through contributions from research publications, grants, and teaching, and student mentorship.