Museum Minute: How Natural History Museums Came Across Their Collections, Yesterday And Today

Feb 17, 2020

Credit Buffalo Bill Center of the West

In the past, natural history museums sent staff and researchers on expeditions to collect specimens in the field. But when the Draper Natural History Museum officially opened its doors in the early 2000s, it wanted to try to avoid that practice.

“We now know that can have drastic negative impacts when you potentially decimate the wildlife population in a region,” said Corey Anco, the assistant curator of the Draper. “So when the Draper was built, staying true to that we tried as little as possible to impact the area around us.”

The area around the Draper is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. One of the last wildlife havens in the country. Anco said this means many of the museum’s specimens are salvage animals.

“These are animals that have met their demise may be due to collision, a bird poached and seized by Game and Fish or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Maybe this is an animal that poses a risk to public safety or repeated instances of food habituation and needs to be removed from the populations,” said Anco.

One of the goals of the museum is to actively build and maintain partnerships with services and local nonprofits to acquire those organisms and bring them value beyond life. The whole idea is “to maintain a repository of these specimens. We [natural history museums] are a repository of the history of the animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so we prepare these animals and skins so they will outlive us,” Anco said.