FROM Science,

Duke University announced this week that its iconic 100-year-old herbarium will be closing in the next 2 or 3 years, a decision that immediately sparked protests from scientists at the university and elsewhere.

Duke says the herbarium, home to 825,000 specimens, has become too expensive to maintain. The collection “is currently housed in outdated facilities that will require significant funds and years of displacement to upgrade,” Susan Alberts, Duke’s dean of natural sciences, wrote in an email to Science. Although Alberts recognizes the value of the collection and its role in helping Duke earn a top reputation in biological sciences, “it’s in the best interests of both Duke and the herbarium to find a new home or homes for these collections,” she wrote in a letter to relevant faculty earlier this week.

“Duke’s decision to divest in its world-class herbarium is a tragic mistake. It will forever limit how Duke faculty and students are able to address the enormous environmental challenges that face humanity,” says Michael Donoghue, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University. “What’s next, the library?” Kathryn Picard, a biodiversity researcher at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), calls the decision “quite chilling.”