Friday, March 25, 2016

More about specimen labels

kw: natural history, natural science, museums, research, labeling, photographs

The current name of this critter is Leptoxis carinata (Bruguière, 1792), sometimes called the Crested Mudalia. Most folks call these and many of their sister species "little brown mud snails". Just like most birds are "little brown things" like sparrows and wrens, and most mammals are also "little brown things" like mice, voles and shrews, small dim-colored, unpretty shells dominate the world of mollusks.

Today the species takes second place to the labels. I've set this to show at a pretty large size so the labels are about natural size on most monitors.

Many shell collectors are like Mrs. Mumford, and add variety to their collections by trading or purchasing shells. In this case, however, after Isaiah Greegor died in 1894 his entire collection was sold to Henry Mumford. Upon his death in 1906 the collection was bequeathed to the Brooklyn Institute, to be named the Phebe L. Mumford Collection.

Like any good museum, they traded around, to gather and disperse variety, and a number of the Mumford specimens came into the hands of John D. Parker of Philadelphia. His collection was one of several large collections that were brought together under the curatorship of R. Tucker Abbott to jump-start the shell collection of the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1971. I daresay that the script on the older label is Mr. Greegor's, and that on the Mumford label was done at the Brooklyn Institute in about 1907.

It is fortunate that shell collectors do not only "go for the gorgeous", but also collect for variety and scientific completeness, and thus the "little brown things" of the world are not neglected when developing natural history collections.

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