Biodiversity research has been the mainstay of natural history museums, but the traditional uses of biological collections in taxonomy, systematics, and evolutionary biology account for only part of these collections' value. Biological collections today are meeting diverse needs. New uses for specimens—as “biological filter paper,” for example—have little relationship to the taxon-oriented research on which collections are based, yet they often have tremendous import for helping us understand changes in populations, species, and the environment. As the major issues in exploration and systematics are resolved and society's interest in biodiversity wavers, museums need to embrace important new uses for natural history collections and, with new partners, begin laying new foundations for a postbiodiversity future. Proactively opening a domain focused on exploration and basic biodiversity to an increase in applied research can enable museums to grow to meet present and future challenges and to bring their true strengths, their collections, to bear on broader issues for both science and society.
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Vol. 54 • No. 5