Paris types

For the past 1.5 week I’ve been working (not to say being immersed) in the Paris museum. Quite a historical setting, in buildings across the street of Jardin des Plantes, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle was founded in 1793.

In this building the malacological section is housed, and this is the place where Philippe Bouchet leads his team expanding the collection through many expeditions around the world (mainly marine). I had a chat with him about several things and one topic we discussed was the number and role of taxonomists. The number of taxonomists is now expanding largely outside Europe and the USA, and the role of taxonomists is undoubtedly changing within science. Permanent staff is spending its time more and more to ‘top research’ (as perceived by those who manage them or as pushed as such in publicity). Therefore the main body of taxonomic work is gradually left to volunteers and so-called ‘amateurs’. In this respect, there is not much difference between France and Holland.

The type collection is in an attic room and it looks at least quite vulnerable, despite a number of fire resistant doors dividing the space. The non-type material is in an underground building (type ‘bunker’), which is not a pleasant place to spend your day. For Neotropical land snails the place is still one of the heavens on earth, with many historical material e.g. from Férussac, Deshayes, d’Orbigny, Crosse etc. Also the unsorted remainders from 19th century expeditions are stored here, although much effort has been put to sort the material out and integrate this in the systematically arranged collection.

Most of my time I spent on the attic, working my way through the type material and taking data and photographs. More than 230 taxa recognized, considerable more than in my paper from the 1970s.
Thanks to my host Virgenie Héros who made every effort to make my mission easier.


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