The J. F. Maxwell Memorial Fund

On May 12th 2015, James Franklin Maxwell, one of SE Asia’s leading taxonomic botanists and curator of the Biology Department’s Herbarium at Chiang Mai University, suffered a fatal heart attack, whilst working with students in the field. After funeral ceremonies at Wat Chang Kien, Chiang Mai, his ashes were scattered in an appropriate forest location. Max’s family, colleagues and hundreds of his students all mourn his passing. FORRU-CMU has lost our main plant identification expert and CMU Biology Department a uniquely skilled colleague … and quite a character. He will be sorely missed.

Since 1992, Max amassed the 3rd largest collection of vascular plant specimens and the country’s largest collection of bryophytes at the CMU Biology Department Herbarium (CMUB), as well as a library of flora’s and other botanical text books. Many of you may be wondering what will now happen to this invaluable research resource. Whilst Max’s decades of experience are irreplaceable, CMU-Biology does have highly qualified plant taxonomy staff, more than able to secure and build upon Max’s legacy. 

Dr. Sutthathorn Chairuangsri remains in overall charge of the Herbarium building and Dr. Tanawat Chaowasku is taking on curation duties for now. We have formed an Herbarium Management Committee to run the facility and we have already applied to CMU for funding to deal with long term building maintenance and to hire a full time technician. But it will take time for the funds to come through – and we are in competition with other faculties for limited funds.

In the meantime, we must address some urgent issues to maintain the plant specimen collection and ensure continued use of the herbarium for both taxonomic and environmental research:-

1) Secure the library – catalogue Max’s book collection and organize the books into secure cabinets.
2) Max’s notes are currently deteriorating in cardboard boxes on the floor – we want to sort them, scan them, file the originals into secured cabinets and make the scanned copies available to researchers via the web.
3) Office for the new curator – we would like to outfit an office where the new curator can comfortably control access to the plant collection and library and initiate new research projects that make use of the facilities.
4) Employ a technician – temporarily whilst the university creates an official position. 
5) Keep out vermin – we would like to put screens onto the herbarium windows to keep out birds.
6) Tribute exibit about Max – a glass cabinet, housing Max’s most iconic artifacts, with information boards about his achievements.
7) Install security measures to safeguard the library and specimen collection – whilst developing an approriate access system for researchers.

Therefore, we invite those who knew or worked with Max and benefitted from his immense knowledge over the decades, to help us deal with some of these most urgent issues, whilst the slow wheels of bureaucracy turn to hopefully provide long-term security for this immensely important collection – for future generations of students and researchers.

Max would have been touched to see the large crowds of friends and colleagues who came to his funeral, and we thank all of you who turned up to give him such a fine send off, but those of you who knew him well also know that he cared little about rituals and wreaths. What he treasured most were his plant collection and library. If you would like to honor his memory, please help us to ensure that these are secured and that his work continues to contribute to the advancement of plant taxonomy, environmental conservation and forest restoration across SE Asia ... starting with some of the critical tasks listed above.

In Thailand you can donate via ATM machine directly to the CMUB Herbarium account: 
                           Krung Thai Bank Account 456-0-18850-5

Please send an email to Dr. Sutthathorn at  [email protected], along with an image of the ATM slip, so we know who the donation has come from.

Alternatively, you can donate via credit card, through PayPal, via the FORRU-CMU account (you do not need to sign up for a PayPal account). Please send your donation to:                                                                                                                                                           [email protected]

In this case, please send an email to me: [email protected] and let me know if you have any preference as to how you would like your donation to be spent. 

                                                  Thank you, Steve Elliott (June 4th 2015)