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You are here: FPL Home  / Research  / Centers  / Center For Wood Anatomy Research  / About Samuel J. Record (SJRw) Collection

About Samuel J. Record (SJRw) Collection


Center For Wood Anatomy ResearchThe full story behind FPL's acquisition of the SJRw collection is too lengthy and complicated for this paper; the following is a brief summary. In 1960, the last issue of Tropical Woods was published at Yale, and William Louis Stern, editor of this publication and curator of the SJRw collection, accepted the position of curator of the wood collection at the Smithsonian Institute (USw). The School of Forestry at Yale formed an advisory committee to make recommendations concerning their longstanding tropical woods program, which included the fate of the SJRw collection. At the same time, the faculty of the School of Forestry decided that emphasis in wood anatomy should be changed from systematics to the experimental and developmental approach. Without staff, budget, and faculty members with an interest in collection, systematics, and/or wood anatomy, the collection remained stagnant. In 1966, the advisory committee recommended disposal of the collection. Initially, several departments at Yale were contacted, including the Peabody Museum, but none of them wanted the collection or had the staff and budget to maintain it.

Center For Wood Anatomy ResearchA few years later, a home for the collection was sought outside Yale. In a letter to Dr. H.O. Fleischer, then Director of FPL, dated May 19, 1969, Dr. Francois Mergen, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry, divulged the university's decision to dispose of the collection:

"At the present time this collection is on an inactive status and for several reasons it has been decided that the collection could make greater contributions and integrate better at another institution. Accordingly, we are now writing to several selected institutions to see if they are interested in assuming responsibility for the collection. The choice of a new home for the collection will be based primarily on where the collection can make the greatest scientific contribution and can rely on potential continuity of support."

Center For Wood Anatomy ResearchIn his reply, dated May 28, 1969, Fleischer expressed strong interest in acquiring the collection, noting that "such a collection would facilitate our wood identification service, provide opportunities for research in this highly specialized field and would no doubt attract...scholars from all over the world." After much negotiation, a cooperative agreement, originally established in 1963, was amended in late 1969 to provide the School of Forestry a $20,000 grant, and thus, FPL obtained the SJRw wood collection. The collection had 55,000 wood specimens, an associated herbarium with approximately 25,000 sheets, a microscope slide collection, index cards, and related correspondence and documentary files.

When Louis O. Williams learned that FPL had obtained the SJRw collection, he offered to make the wood collection at the Field Museum in Chicago (Fw) (Williams 1971) available to FPL through Kukachka. Kukachka accepted on behalf of FPL, and the 20,000 specimens were moved to Madison in 1971. This brought FPL's holdings to 100,000 samples in three collections, and there was no room to house any of them. In anticipation of the acquisition of the Yale and Field Museum collections, new quarters were arranged on the fourth floor of the main FPL building. But how was this massive collection to be organized?

The SJRw collection came complete with its original wood cabinets (Figs. 6 and 7), but these were of a different size than the cabinets housing the MADw specimens (Figs. 35). It was decided to keep the two wood collections and their accompanying index cards and files separate. However, both the microscope slide collection and herbarium associated with MADw were combined with the collections from Yale. After settling the SJRw in its present position, Kukachka decided to reorganize the 55,000 specimens from a numerical arrangement to the alphabetical system he had designed for the MADw collection. On paper, this looked like an easy task, but since I was assigned this task as one of my duties, I soon discovered that in reality it was dusty, dirty, tedious, and time consuming. Years passed before the collection was finally reorganized.

The specimens from the Field Museum came in moving boxes. No cabinets, files, index cards, slides, or herbarium accompanied the wood specimens. Kukachka decided to incorporate this collection directly into the MADw collection. All the information about the sample was contained on a label pasted on the sample. A MADw number was assigned to the specimen, and the information on the label was then transferred to index cards. However, Kukachka wanted to examine every sample with a hand lens before adding it to the collection to confirm its proper identification. If the sample had been misidentified, it was discarded. In addition, he discarded many samples that were not vouchered, although I sometimes retrieved specimens from the trash if they seemed to be of some historic significance or in short supply. Of course, duplicate samples that were already represented among the MADw woods were not saved, although I often selected the biggest and best sample for the MADw collection. In the end, approximately 8,500 of the initial 20,000 Fw specimens were accessioned.

At the same time that I was accessioning the Field Museum material, I established contact with Roger Dechamps and we began exchanging specimens. Such a wealth of material and all with vouchers! Most vouchers are deposited in BR or TERV, but Dechamps was kind enough to deposit some vouchers at MAD. Today, FPL has approximately 2,000 wood specimens from TERVw (Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium), and nearly 1,500 of these had been collected by Dechamps.

The SJRw wood collection and accompanying files remain essentially intact. This collection is the same size as it was when it arrived at FPL in 1969~55,000 specimens. We have not added specimens to the SJRw collection. The only changes have been to arrange the specimens alphabetically by family, genus, species, and accession number and to mark the accession number, scientific name, family name, and country of origin directly on the specimen with black indelible ink. The herbarium and slide collections have been merged with FPL holdings, but they have been clearly marked to indicate where each originated. I estimate that the herbarium contains approximately 27,000 sheets and the slide collection 60,000 slides, representing perhaps 25,000 specimens.