Accepted Paper:

European Natural History Museums as part of a global biodiversity-research infrastructure  


Henk Koerten (Vrije Universiteit)

Paper short abstract:

An ethnographic study of curators and scientists has been done to understand how processes of digitalization, virtualization and DNA sequencing affect the role of natural history museums as part of a global biodiversity research infrastructure.

Paper long abstract:

Biodiversity change can be analyzed bringing together a variety of data sources into a meaningful infrastructure bringing together structured and standardized data, funding and skills.

Natural history museums are institutions holding vast, centuries-spanning, standardized specimen collections and species-data, being ideal vaults for long-term biodiversity-research. Natural history museums have had doubts about their role in biodiversity science but have now regained self-esteem as collection-workers , even considering themselves as key to scientific research on biodiversity assessment. Do natural history museums see themselves as just data vaults or do they take the lead in defining the biodiversity research agenda?

Recent EU-funded programs like EDIT, ViBRANT and Synthesys reflect the urge of natural history institutions to cooperate on a European scale, the question is how collaboration at the museum work floor takes form. There are indications that curators and scientists in natural history museums engage in ongoing collaborative practices with peers from other institutions and how they help to transform traditional views on natural history museums into a biodiversity research agenda, based on digitization and virtualization of traditional collections combined with DNA sequencing, thus creating an infrastructure for biodiversity assessment.

To make sense of these changes we are going to investigate how practices of curators and scientists in natural history museums are affected by ideas of collections as being part of a wider scientific biodiversity infrastructure. Through ethnographic research on curators and scientists in natural history museums we want to understand the relationship between traditional natural history collections and contemporary biodiversity research.

Panel A06
Meeting (in) data