Re: “The Peabody needs to shape up” (Sept. 22): First, I want to echo Dakota McCoy: Thomas Burns’ argument that the Peabody does not serve the Yale community is tragically misguided and simply incorrect. The Peabody is a place alive with curiosity about the natural world, and it is alive with passion for sharing this curiosity. I would like to applaud Burns for his vision, though. He is right on one account: the Peabody’s collections are amazing, and they are vast. It would truly be a marvel if each one of these specimens could be on permanent display. However, this would require expansive, almost limitless space, and it would require extensive security measures in order to keep the specimens safe and secure for future research. No major natural history museum is able to keep all of its specimens on public display.
Yet the Peabody still works towards this goal in creative ways. Many divisions are in the process of digitizing their collections: they are photographing each specimen and inputting all specimen data into Yale’s public database. The Peabody has in fact been a pioneer among museums in harnessing the latest technologies for collection digitization. Further, a number of us blog about the specimens we encounter behind the scenes, precisely because we know there are people like Burns who desire to experience the collections beyond what is on display. I am still blogging about the Vertebrate Zoology specimens, even though I no longer work at the museum. And we are in the midst of creating a collective blog space at the Peabody website that will enable anyone at the Peabody — student, staff or curator — to easily share about the specimens they are working with, the research they are conducting, and the discoveries they are making. This blog is set to be titled “Twelve million specimen … and counting.” I hope Burns will become a regular reader when we launch it.
The writer is a 2009 graduate of Ezra Stiles College and a former museum assistant at the Yale Peabody Museum.