The Art of Biocollections

  • Anne Hambro Alnæs


This chapter examines and discusses certain similarities and differences between established national art collections and evolving public biobanks. Such a comparison has the merit of sharpening our awareness concerning the rights and duties pertaining between collectors and donors. Tracing the way in which some works of art have been acquired in the past, and considering more recent examples of bioprospecting, it becomes evident that collecting exists along a continuum from people’s altruistic donations, via deposits, to commercial acquisitions, as well as illicit appropriations hardly discernable from confiscation and theft. Comparing collections of biologicals with art galleries shows that analogies are polysemic and depend on being interpreted in line with some, but not with other connotations, if they are to add to our understanding. Both national art galleries and depositories of biologicals represent iconic and indexical representations of considerable value for future scientific research and as archives for posterity. It is up to future researchers to unlock the as yet unknowable information embedded in present biological depositories. This chapter aims at shedding light on which rules for preserving, dissolving, selling, or abandoning different kinds of collections should prevail. Analogies have a didactic potential, which at the same time carry normative implications.


Bone Marrow Donor Symbolic Capital Donation After Cardiac Death Symbolic Violence National Gallery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barth F (1993) Balinese Worlds. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  2. Bourdieu P (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu P (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Callon M (1998) Introduction: the embeddedness of economic markets in economics. In: Callon M (Ed.) The Laws of the Markets. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 1–57Google Scholar
  5. Hambro Alnæs A (2001) Minding Matter. Organ Donation and Medical Modernity’s Difficult Decisions (Doctoral thesis). Oslo University Press, OsloGoogle Scholar
  6. Hofmann B et al. (2006) Teaching old dog new tricks: the role of analogies in bioethical analysis and argumentation concerning new technologies. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 26:397– 413Google Scholar
  7. Holm S (2007) Head to head. Should genetic information be disclosed to insurers? Yes. British Medical Journal 334:1196Google Scholar
  8. Jakobson R (1956) Two aspects of language and two types of aphasic disturbances. In: Jakobson R, Halle M (Eds.) Fundamentals of Language. Mouton, The Hague, pp 55–87Google Scholar
  9. Kopytoff I (1986) The cultural biography of things. Commoditization as process. In: Appadurai A (Ed.) The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 64–91Google Scholar
  10. Lakoff G, Johnson M (1980). Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  11. Landecker H (1999) Between beneficence and chattel: the human biological in law and science. Science in Context 12:203–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. López JJ (2006) Mapping metaphors and analogies. American Journal of Bioethics 6:49–57Google Scholar
  13. Mauss M (1990) The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Translated by WD Halls. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Nelkin D, Andrews L (1998) Homo Economicus. Commercialization of Body Tissue in the Age of Biotechnology. Hastings Center Report 28:30–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Norway (2003) Act on Biobanks, LOV 2003–02–21 nr 12: Lov om biobanker (biobankloven)Google Scholar
  16. Ortner S (1973) On key symbols. American Anthropologist, New Series 75: 1338–1346Google Scholar
  17. Sankar P (2004) Communication and Miscommunication In Informed Consent to Researcyh. In Medical Anthropology Quartlerly. Washington. 18, 4:429–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Titmuss RM (1970) The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy. Allen & Unwin, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Hambro Alnæs
    • 1
  1. 1.Section for Medical Ethics, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations