Article ID: CBB001320039

Modernizing Natural History: Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in Transition (2013)


Throughout the twentieth century calls to modernize natural history motivated a range of responses. It was unclear how research in natural history museums would participate in the significant technological and conceptual changes that were occurring in the life sciences. By the 1960s, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, was among the few university-based natural history museums that were able to maintain their specimen collections and support active research. The MVZ therefore provides a window to the modernization of natural history. This paper concentrates on the directorial transitions that occurred at the MVZ between 1965 and 1971. During this period, the MVZ had four directors: Alden H. Miller (Director 1940-1965), an ornithologist; Aldo Starker Leopold (Acting Director 1965-1966), a conservationist and wildlife biologist; Oliver P. Pearson (Director 1966-1971), a physiologist and mammalogist; and David B. Wake (Director 1971-1998), a morphologist, developmental biologist, and herpetologist. The paper explores how a diversity of overlapping modernization strategies, including hiring new faculty, building infrastructure to study live animals, establishing new kinds of collections, and building modern laboratories combined to maintain collections at the MVZ's core. The paper examines the tensions between the different modernization strategies to inform an analysis of how and why some changes were institutionalized while others were short-lived. By exploring the modernization of collections-based research, this paper emphasizes the importance of collections in the transformation of the life sciences.[

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Authors & Contributors
Sunderland, Mary Evelyn
Rosenberg, Gary D.
Clary, Renee M.
McMillan, R. Bruce
Lipps, Jere H.
Longair, Sarah
HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
British Journal for the History of Science
Physics in Perspective
Geological Society of America
Manchester University Press
University of California Press
National University of Singapore Press
Natural history
Collectors and collecting
Natterer, Johann
Miller, Alden Holmes
Grinnell, Joseph
Oppenheimer, J. Robert
Lund, Peter Wilhelm
Gould, John
United States
New Zealand
Missouri (U.S.)
Great Britain
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
21st century
Early modern
University of California, Berkeley
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (University of California, Berkeley)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (U.S.)
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen

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