Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying. Typically you think of taxonomies when it comes to organisms such as plants, animals and microorganisms of the world. On a global stage and in light of political and/or religious battles, museums are often the first thing to strike back against culture, and by association, taxonomies. This topic came to us from The Conversation in their article, “Taxonomy, the science of naming things, is under threat.”

Taxonomy identifies and enumerates the components of biological diversity providing basic knowledge underpinning management and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Unfortunately, taxonomic knowledge is far from complete. In the past 250 years of research, taxonomists have named about 1.78 million species of animals, plants and micro-organisms, yet the total number of species is unknown and probably between 5 and 30 million.

Museums and collections constitute the primary means by which both tangible and intangible heritage are safeguarded, while protection and promotion of cultural and natural diversity remains some of the most difficult challenges. When museums are threatened for the symbolic value that they hold for the local and international communities, it is another example of the undervaluing of museum collections and taxonomic expertise.

Melody K. Smith

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