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The purpose of the Zoology Museum is to collect and maintain a depository of biological specimens and materials (including fossil) in sufficient numbers and quantities to provide within the country and region a base for scientific research.

Specimens are acquired either by

  • Direct acquisition by the Department (e.g. through field collecting)
  • Donations of private collections and gifts to the museum.  These collections are listed under the donors’ name as being presented to the museum
  • Loans of specimens or collections - Incoming loans shall be accepted only for purposes of exhibition or research. Indefinite or long-term loans shall be accepted only when recommended by the staff approved by the Head of the Department of Life Sciences. These loans must involve important objects that would otherwise be subject to loss or are required for Museum programs. The Museum cannot store, on behalf of others, materials that are not required for exhibition or ongoing research or promised donation. Materials lent to the Museum on the understanding that they will ultimately be donated to the collections must be accompanied by a written binding declaration of the lender’s intent to this effect.

Priorities for Acquisition

Although the present collections are of national significance and are used in research, identification services, and educational activities, all of the collections can be improved by selective addition of new objects.

Due to space limitations, it is not advisable that the Museum engages in indiscriminate acquisition. The financial aspects of fulfilling the Museum’s continuing obligation to preserve, maintain, and use representative samples of the biodiversity limits its acquisition capabilities. Consequently, a schedule of priorities for new acquisitions has been adopted.

First Priority. To broaden the comparative base of our established collection areas.  Examples of first priority acquisitions are archival objects such as voucher objects for published research; synoptic objects from specialists; objects that will strengthen a collection in a subject area related to a previously established one; high quality objects needed to fill gaps in the current holdings or to supplement objects of lesser quality.

Second Priority. To strengthen collection in areas in which the Museum has a current specialisation and recognized historical interest, especially in areas threatened irreversibly by human activities. Examples of secondary priority acquisitions are objects of direct use in present or projected research or in current educational programs; objects from biotas, and geologic strata where technological changes and expanding human activity place a time limit on the period in which sampling can take place

Third Priority. To obtain collections of a general nature that are within the broad interests of the Museum. Examples of tertiary priority acquisitions are interesting or unique, but adequately documented, objects of limited use in a scientific sense; objects outside the scope of current Museum research collections, but that might in the future have direct use in explaining more fully the diversity of nature to the lay public.

It is recognized that acquisition of objects often must be opportunistic. From time to time, collections of recognised national or regional significance become available from individuals or institutions that no longer are able or willing to preserve, maintain, and use them in research and educational activities. Acceptance of responsibilities for such collections may involve establishing a new area of interest within the Museum. Acquisition of such collections must be judged on their individual merits, carefully weighing the values and costs of such additions against the evolving programs and emphases of the Museum.

Acquisition Ethics

Because the prime responsibilities of the Museum are to maintain objects in the public trust commensurate with adequate safety, to make objects available for study, to employ objects in education, and to conduct research, the Museum requires its staff:

1. to act ethically and legally in collecting, acquiring, reproducing, lending, and disposing of objects;

2. to discourage unethical, illegal, and destructive practices with respect to collecting, acquiring, storing, reproducing, displaying, transporting, and trafficking in objects;

4. to refrain during their tenure of Museum employment from amassing or adding to personal collections that overlap in scope with those of the museum;

5. to provide the Museum with an inventory of any Museum-related personal collections at the time of employment and to update this inventory to include any new acquisitions for which an exemption to Rule 4 above has been granted after employment; and,

6. to abide by the Museum’s Code of Ethics as outlined in the Museum Policy, and the UNESCO Convention of 1971.

All participants in Museum-sponsored fieldwork should be aware that acquisitions during the trip, whether part of the stated purpose of the trip or not, are the property of the Museum and must be placed at the disposal of the appropriate curator for possible accession into a Museum collection.

Objects shall not be accepted or acquired for Museum collections unless:

1. the objects are consistent with the purposes and activities of the Museum;

2. the Museum can provide for the storage, protection, and preservation of the objects under conditions that insure their availability in keeping with professional standards of museum conservation;

3. it is intended that the objects shall remain in the collections as long as they remain useful for the purposes of the Museum;

4. the Museum can acquire valid and legal title to them effective in Trinidad and Tobago and in the country of origin, if different;

5. the Museum can be assured that they were not collected or recovered under circumstances that would support or encourage irresponsible damage to, or destruction of biota, collecting sites, cultural monuments, or human burial places (the Museum may accept objects that have been confiscated by governmental authorities and subsequently offered to the Museum); and,

6. free-and-clear title, without restrictions as to use, reproduction, or future disposition, can be obtained, and a legal instrument of conveyance, setting forth an adequate description of the objects and the precise conditions of transfer, signed by the donor or seller and by an authorized Museum representative, can be placed on file in the Departmental/Museum Office. (If, under rare conditions, objects are accepted with restrictions or limitations, then such conditions must be approved by the Curator/HOD, and must be stated clearly in the instrument of conveyance, which is to be made part of the accession records for the objects. This policy shall be strictly observed by the Museum.)

When considering receipt of a gift, the circumstances of the transaction, the reputation of the donor, and the available knowledge of the object’s origin shall leave no doubt that valid and legal title can be transferred to the Museum. In complying with these provisions, staff should consult with colleagues in their own institution and discipline to the degree advisable based on the significance of the acquisition and the circumstances of the transaction. In doubtful cases, staff will abide by the advice of the UWI’s legal counsel.

All objects acquired for the collections shall be documented in the Museum Office using standards that are normal to the pertinent discipline. These records shall include the evidence that has been gathered to establish the appropriateness of the acquisition within the context of the above.

Copies or reproductions of original material acquired for display or research purposes shall not be acquired or reproduced without the sanction of the institution in which the original material is housed.

Objects that have been collected recently in such a careless manner as to impair their scientific value shall not be accepted, e.g., archaeological and geological objects taken without proper recording of stratigraphic and site data, or biological objects with inadequate documentation.

Conditions for Acceptance

All acquisitions are unconditional except where the Museum explicitly grants and exemption.  The Museum normally will not accept objects on which the owner has placed restrictions that would prevent effective research examination, normal exhibition use, loan, or disposal in accordance with this established policy.  The Museum also will not accept objects with restrictions requiring that they be placed on exhibition, or that the collection of which they form a part should be kept together permanently and/or displayed only as a discrete collection.  Under extraordinary circumstances, objects can be accepted with the requirement that the Museum retain ownership for a negotiated period of time.

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