This is an inventive and, I think, necessary strategy for natural history collections as they lay off curators and cut back on research:
We are doing something a little daring, but certainly exciting here at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. We have decided to specialize on flies.
…we found a first partner in the Utah State University, especially with Dr. James Pitts. There, Dr. Wilford Hansen has built an excellent collection of mostly Neotropical Diptera. The current staff of their entomology department, however, is more interested in Hymenoptera, and this spring we are doing a large-scale exchange of USU Diptera for LACM Hymenoptera (exclusive of ants and bees).
This exchange includes about 600 drawers of material on each side. It more than doubles our holdings of general Diptera, not including our already major collections of Phoridae, Blephariceridae, and Neotropical Psychodidae. It also makes USU a major Hymenoptera collection, a truly win-win arrangement.
Ideally, our society would recognize basic biological knowledge to be important enough to fully fund natural history collections. Failing such a commitment, though, museums must take steps to protect their irreplaceable specimens as resources dry up. One way is to increase specialization, moving collections around so that each museum only holds specimens of active interest to whatever remains of their vestigial research staff.
The Los Angeles museum holds one of the world’s largest and most important collections of ants, thanks to Roy Snelling’s work in Central America and western North America. For the time being it seems the ants will remain on site.