USES OF A RESEARCH MUSEUM
|THE METHODS AND USES OF A RESEARCH MUSEUM|
By JOSEPH GRINNELL
DIRECTOR OF THE MUSEUM OF VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
THE average public museum contains natural history specimens of two categories—those which are displayed within glass cases constantly open to the light, so as to be continually in the view of visitors; and of those which are stored away in various appropriate containers, ordinarily protected from the light, and which are not open for the inspection of the general public, though they may be freely handled and examined by the special student in the field to which they pertain. The former category of specimens constitutes what is usually referred to as the museum proper, or exhibition museum; while the latter forms what may be termed the research museum.
The functions of an exhibition museum have been discussed at length, and its claim to recognition as a valuable factor in public education as well as amusement has been too well established to require further proof. It should be remembered, however, that much of the material on display may at the same time be of direct value in research; for it consists in part of such objects as skeletons which are not affected injuriously by light and which may be encased with a view to easy access by the osteologist who wishes to examine them minutely.
It is in the research department of the museum that I believe lies a great value, even though the sight-seeing visitor may know nothing of its existence. The maintenance of a research department on a large scale is certainly justifiable, as I purpose to show, by the importance of the results to be obtained through it from the standpoint of pure science. In an institution, like the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, which is an integral part of a large university, it may even be warrantable to emphasize the importance of research over exhibition. For the presence of the research museum serves as a stimulus to the university student and as a source of material and information usable in the work of other departments in the university.
In discussing at length the functions of a research museum, in order to have something concrete to use in illustration, I will refer constantly to the institution with which I am connected. Here, although it has been little more than two years since its inauguration, enough of methods and policies have been formulated to furnish data for the basis of this paper.
The functions of our research department, in other words the