In biology and other disciplines there are some people who think museum collections are “just stamp collecting.” But as philatelists, we know there’s a whole lot more to stamp collecting than “just.” Same with museum collections.
As an illustration from biology, this photo is my late friend Roxie Layborne. She spent her career in the bird collection at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian). The last 40 years or so she took bird feathers that had been through jet engines and identified them for the FAA, US Air Force, and similar organizations around the world.
She used the collection to match to her specimens.
In this way she helped airplane designers make better engines that could withstand the damage caused by the common birds they would strike.
She also helped solve murders by comparing feathers from pillows and jackets people had been shot through.
I wonder if any of us would be lucky enough to be called upon to do so much using our skills and knowledge in “just stamp collecting.”
After all, we already might investigate small details of printing, history, chemistry of ink and glue, paper differences, and lots of other things the casual observer would miss.
Who knows where our hobby might lead.
(Behind Roxie is Dr Carla Dove, a student of Roxie who caries on some of her work.)