Rethinking the value of biological specimens: laboratories, museums and the Barcoding of Life Initiative

July 1st, 2008 | RESEARCH

This paper explores the shifting values and fragilities of museum biological specimens as they have recently become enrolled in the Barcoding of Life Initiative (BOLI); a global techno-scientific project which seeks to provide the 'barcode' to 'anyone anywhere' as a ubiquitous species naming device for all species on the planet. The reliance of BOLI upon museum collections for the industrialized high throughput sequencing necessary to rapidly accumulate DNA barcodes, I argue, positions museum specimens in a newly configured relationship with a 'global populace' assumed to require instantaneous species information. I discuss how museum specimens, as scientific, epistemic objects are sites of evolving and contested meaning as alternative approaches to the potential (classificatory and possibly commercial value) of DNA barcodes continue to be negotiated within the taxonomic community. As such they are sites of lively and ever-emerging forms of material culture in natural history museums as they speak for multiple natural orders.


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Team Members

Rebecca Ellis, Author, Lancaster University


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 1479-8360

Publication: Museum and Society
Volume: 6
Number: 2
Page(s): 172

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Audience: Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Laboratory Programs | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs