A Summary of the Past and a Prognosis of the Future of the UW Fish Collection
The development of the Fish
Collection at the
The Collection received minimal support and oversight for the next 40 years. For much of this period the Collection was nominally supervised by a non-ichthyologist who seemingly had minimal interest in ichthyology or in the Collection. Arthur D. Welander was not an aggressive individual; in fact, he was described by some as “shy” and likely his personality was a significant factor in the lack of support for the Collection under his care.114 A further element most probably affecting the care of the Collection was the 40-year leadership of the School by William F. Thompson, from 1930 to 1947, and one of his former students, Richard Van Cleve, who was director from 1948-1971. Neither had any apparent interest in ichthyology or in the Collection, other than as a resource for teaching.
Two ichthyologists were
hired to supervise the Collection during the period 1963-1972, but neither
stayed long at the School. John D. McPhail was at the School from 1963-1966. He made a gallant effort to reorganize the
Collection after its move to the basement of the
Theodore W. Pietsch was hired as Curator of Fishes in 1978. Pietsch, from the beginning, was an intense worker with a drive to excel. He labored mightily refurbishing and expanding the Collection. Pietsch soon obtained NSF funding to rehabilitate the Collection and, when a new Fisheries Teaching and Research Building was planned in the in the mid-1980s, he obtained another NSF grant to provide first-class storage facilities for the Collection. A full-time manager, the first ever for the Collection, was hired in 1988.
Pietsch developed a Collection plan focusing on cold-water North Pacific fishes. He arranged for the addition of new material to the Collection through cooperation with university, state, and federal fisheries agencies. In the late 1980s, Pietsch negotiated for the transfer to the museum a significant collection of fish eggs and larvae from the AFSC, a process that is still continuing. He obtained NSF funding to enable this transfer and the Fish Collection was designated a “Regional Center” by that agency for the archival of early life history collections of the Pacific Northwest.
An active program in collection-based systematic ichthyology was established and many manuscripts were published. Pietsch is a dedicated teacher as his many “teaching awards” certify. Graduate students became an integral part of the Fish Collection. Twenty-one graduate degrees have been awarded since 1978 to students majoring in ichthyology or others using the Collection for their thesis research.
In the mid-1990s, Pietsch organized a series of NSF funded (with collateral
support from the governments of
In the late 1990s, Pietsch received a significant endowment to support
collection-based systematic research by ichthyology students at the
The importance of the Fish Collection will undoubtedly increase in the future. It will undergo continual growth in numbers of fishes deposited as well as in the diversity of specimens. Other areas of growth will include the increased addition of tissue samples for DNA analysis and for the secure storage of tissues used for forensic analysis.
Pietsch has accomplished all this over the past 25 years in the face of frequent periods of financial uncertainty. He has been forced into a constant search for financial support in addition to maintaining a high level of funding for his research program and those of his graduate students. This lack of financial support has been a dominant feature of the collection through its history.
According to Ruthven
(1931), “The most obvious function of a museum is the diffusion of
knowledge.” This failure to support
financially a museum whose basic function is “diffusion of knowledge” is not limited