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Ellen Paul

Request for information about collections management and access practices

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I am in the final stages of a book, forthcoming from Viking, about the 2009 theft of hundreds of bird skins from the British Natural History Museum in Tring. As you might recall, the birds were stolen and sold off to the obsessive community of Victorian salmon fly-tiers, who value tying flies according to the 'original recipes.' While I have spoken individually with curators and ornithologists over the past several years, I wanted to reach out to AVECOL to learn whether or not this theft led any of you to change your approach to granting collections access to visitors. I understand you may not want to go into specifics on new measures, but I'm curious if you give heightened scrutiny to those seeking to view the species most prized by the fly-tying community (Pyroderus scutatus, Cotinga cotinga, Pharomachrus mocinno, the Birds of Paradise)? Did you have to request budgetary increases to cover new security measures? Has it changed the way you calibrate trust versus access? Have any of you suffered thefts of these (or other brightly-colored specimens) from your collections in recent years? Did this heist prompt anyone to audit their own collections?

Would love to hear any reactions - I can be reached at kwj@kirkwjohnson.com.

Most sincerely,

Kirk W. Johnson

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