Historic perspective

In a previous post in this blog, readers were asked if they have ever wondered about the history of the Museum of Biological Diversity.

I’m a bit of a history buff and interested in how things happened back in the day. It’s a bit painful to admit it, but I’m one of the few faculty and staff left in the Museum who was actually present when we moved into our current building on Kinnear Road back in 1992. Unfortunately, it seems that we don’t have coherent and comprehensive written documentation of how we morphed from a bunch of separate collections into our current structure. But I thought it would be fascinating to see what pieces of history are available.

I went back to the Triplehorn Insect Collection files and found, for example, the second part of the 1982 Association of Systematics Collections newsletter (Vol. 10, No. 2), the one that refers to the Triplehorn collection. I also found a lot of historical records that I did not even know were there (thanks to my co-author, Dr. Musetti, for her careful curation of the collection’s historical documents and records.)

The Museum of Biological Diversity (MBD) at the Ohio State University is a relatively young facility. The building was dedicated in 1992. The objective was to house the OSU biological collections, well, with the exception of the Orton Geology Museum. In the 24 years since, the outside face of the museum has not changed much, but the faces inside – both the people and the physical layout – have changed a fair bit.

We have found some early documents of the Museum’s opening (see photos below), including the agenda of its official dedication on Dec. 3, 1992. (PDF version)

Gary Floyd was the Dean of the College of Biological Sciences in those days, and the University President was E. Gordon Gee (in his first stint in Columbus). Guest speakers included the eminent Peter Raven, then Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a list of other honors and titles as long as your arm.

One of the bits of historica that I found interesting was an early mission statement. It reflects the typical University mandate of excellence in teaching, research and service, but supplemented by the aspiration to be “an important public attraction.” Also included was a quick fact sheet about each of the collections.

There is also evidence of the lack of history. For example, this Ohio State celebratory newsletter from 1995 (see photos below) highlights 125 events and accomplishments that made the university great, but does not mention the dedication of the new Museum, which had happened just two years before. I was shocked, shocked I say, to find that omission! Well, the University’s sesquicentennial is coming up in just a few years, so there will be a chance for that situation to be rectified.

The individual collections that make up the MBD have a long history that starts well before our move in 1992 and, in some cases, dates back to the beginnings of the University.  Faculty, curators, and other personnel associated with the collections have been saving tidbits of our history for as long as the collections exist. Each of the collections has records and anecdotes of that history, including photos, copies of newspaper and magazine articles, official documents, etc., so my co-author and I trust that we will continue to revisit this general topic in future blog posts. We hope you enjoy it. Let us know by adding a comment here on the blog or via the Museum Facebook page.

About the authorsDr. Norman Johnson (Professor in EEOB & Entomology, and the Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection) co-wrote this post with Dr. Luciana Musetti (Entomologist and the current Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.)  Images belong to the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

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