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Subject: Legal status of biological materials in collections

Legal status of biological materials in collections

From: Sally Shelton <sshelton>
Date: Friday, August 20, 1993
At the request of a besieged curator (and out of my own interest, I
admit), I am trying to put together guidelines for museums or
collections which are unsure of their permit status or legal ownership
of recent biological material (including comparative osteological
material, you paleontologists!). What I would particularly like to know
about includes the following:

    1. Have you had problems dealing with state, Federal, or foreign
    regulatory agencies which issue permits for biological collecting?
    I.e., are the regulations clear; is application for a permit
    straightforward; and have you ever received contradictory
    information from an agency?

    2. Has your ownership of such material ever been challenged because
    you did not have the proper permit or follow agency procedures?

    3. Has any agency ever impounded or confiscated such material from

    4. Have you ever had problems with two or more agencies issuing
    apparently contradictory guidelines?

    5. Does anyone on your staff have primary responsibility for permit
    applications and upgrades?

    6. What, in your opinion, are the major changes (if any) that
    agencies should implement for permit applications?

    7. Do you have custodial responsibility for collections which are
    owned, not by you, but by a public governmental entity or agency? If
    so, has this caused any problems with care and use of the

    8. Would your existing records prove legal ownership or good-faith
    negotiations with another party for ownership if you were

    9. Have you or your collections ever been the target of
    animal-rights activists? If so, has this engendered agency

    10. Have agency regulations had any impact on the degree or scope of
    your biological collecting over the past 10 years?

What I am hoping to do is to develop a set of guidelines for people to
use in checking the legal status of their collections, making
appropriate upgrades or corrections, dealing effectively with regulatory
agencies, and recognizing some of the challenges to ownership which may
legitimately arise. This is intended to be a formal, peer-reviewed
publication. Your answers will be kept strictly confidential; I'm just
trying to get an idea of the magnitude of the problems are that some
collections professionals have with agency oversight.

>From talking to several of you, I know that such problems exist and that
you have been frustrated in trying to comply with the laws and policies.
Thanks in advance for any comments you may wish to make on this issue;
feel free to refer anyone else interested in this to me. All best--

Sally Shelton
Texas Memorial Museum

                  Conservation DistList Instance 7:21
                  Distributed: Friday, August 20, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-21-007
Received on Friday, 20 August, 1993

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