– It’s an old question. I think it might have been a good idea to bring this to an end, says senior advisor and project manager Torsten Kvami at the State Research Institute Nebio (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomics).
They have a large collection of insects at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Tween in Oslo.
Beetles, wasps, and butterflies make up the main part of the collection.
For more than ten years, Nibio has tried to bring home all or parts of the collection. But the Natural History Museum, part of the University of Oslo (UiO), says no.
UiO does not dispute that the group belongs to Nibio. But they will not give it up, because the parties have agreed that it will be in Twain.
In 2005, the Museum of Natural History and the Center for Forestry and Plant Research entered into an agreement to share the institutions’ insect collections at the Museum of Natural History in Twain. Since then it has become Plantforsk and Skogvorsk Nibio.
A collection estimated at 100,000 Norwegian insects was moved from Ås to Tøyen. This is a scientific collection for researchers, insects are not shown. The insects, mainly collected between 1950 and 1990, are now in the Journal of the Natural History Museum’s collection.
The two parties also agreed to establish a “National Insect Mapping Center”.
In the beginning, there was a lot of activity related to the group and the hub, according to UiO.
But in 2013, the center was closed.
I received a “totally unexpected prompt”
The issue has been brought to the Ministry of Education, which owns the Natural History Museum, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, which owns Nebio.
UiO writes to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, through university director Arne Benjaminsen, that in 2012 they received a “totally unexpected request” from Torstein Kvamme for ownership of parts of the collection.
This led to the ant-collection being returned to the institute.
“However, Kvami sticks to his demands, and the case escalates and ends in 2017 with Nebio recalling its collections. This demand has not been accepted by NHM, and most of the collection of Ås is therefore still in NHM,” UiO further writes.
Kvamme is the legal owner of parts of the collection, but states that they must be returned to the Institute anyway.
UiO confirms that the agreement between the museum and Nibbio indicates that the transfer is permanent. Therefore, they will not bring back insects.
– We need the article
– We demanded our collections back because the collaboration didn’t work well. And we also need that material, because there are many changes in the research world that mean we need this material, says Torstein Kvamme.
He does not want to explain the defect that occurred in this cooperation, and indicates that the matter is under consideration in the ministries.
– We need the article as reference material. Because we must have a professional activity here. And we must have research readiness to identify and treat vermin also in relation to imports, which is an ever-increasing problem. We need the material to maintain preparedness and maintain taxonomy and species knowledge.
– Can’t you take care of this even if the group is in tween?
– It’s a problem for several reasons. First, the collaboration didn’t work out very well. And if we are to be able to work effectively against the modern standards required by laboratories and organizations that deal with this, we must have reference materials in our immediate surroundings. It is not good if we have to travel somewhere or send us materials.
Nibio is also responsible for what is called the National Reference Laboratory for Plant Pests. They must have quick and easy access to insect populations so they can properly identify pests and beneficial animals, says Kvamme.
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Rented law firm
In 2013, the parties also agreed to let Kvamme pick a number of ladybugs from the pool at Twain, but there was a disagreement over which ladybugs should be taken out, according to UiO’s bid.
Towards the end of 2015, Nebio called a meeting to agree, but they were unable to do so. And in April 2017, Nippio sent a letter to the Museum of Natural History requesting “their entire insect collections be returned to”.
The institute justified its request by saying that they still had ownership rights to the insects.
The University of Oslo requested a legal assessment by a law firm, which concluded that “it is natural to understand the contract so that the collection remains with the Natural History Museum, even though Nibio owns the property rights to it”.
The University of Oslo has written to the Ministry of Education and Science that it has tried to find a solution that both sides can live with. But Nibio is “unwavering in its demand for compensation and sees no scope for further collaboration until this is achieved,” they wrote of a meeting in 2018.
“Hundreds of chests and safes”
The university believes there was never any doubt that the conversion was permanent. If that were the case, she says, they wouldn’t spend as many resources on conversion.
The university notes that in the early years one of the tasks of eight people was to integrate the group of Ås. The collection was divided into “hundreds of chests and safes”. Registration and reorganization took a lot of time.
To the Ministry of Education, Rector Arne Benjaminsen wrote that the requirement “additionally is practical and financially demanding to be enforced. The claim must therefore be dismissed and Nepio must be realistically oriented as to the costs they incur if the claim is enforced.”
They also believe it is important to get as complete a collection of insects as possible.
“Such collections must be secured in all respects for the future, and made available to researchers at home and abroad. In short, this is clearly a museum’s mission.”
Suggest a solution
What exactly is the role of the ministries in the case, Khrono is not made clear.
Rector Benjamninsen writes to the Ministry of Education that a possible solution “should be that UiO and Nibio are strongly recommended for further cooperation (…)”.
In a report from a meeting between the Natural History Museum and Nippio in June last year, it was also reported that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, according to Nippio, “has decided to return the insect populations to Ås.”
“The background to this is that Nybo, as a government research institute, should be able to pursue its national preparedness and advisory function on important societal tasks,” the director of Nybo said at the meeting.
But the UiO believes that the ministries do not have the authority to review the agreement between the Natural History Museum and Nepeo anyway.
University Principal Arne Benjaminsen had no reason to request an interview or answer Khrono’s written questions.
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