Saturday, April 23, 2016

Some museum catch-up work

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

About a month ago I wrote about the processing of a collection of seashells and related material that had just been donated to the museum. Here I look at some "old business" that the new collections manager dug out of storage and began "doing something about."

In the first picture we see about ten trays of "Unionids", freshwater mussels of the family Unionidae, being checked by one of the volunteers. Alex, our collections manager, had already checked the classification for those lots that had identifications (we call them "determinations") and made determinations for as many of the rest as he could do within a few days' time. Other volunteers had also, at his direction, entered the data for these lots into the mollusk department's database. That done, Alex printed labels for them and this volunteer is gathering certain ones to pair them with their new labels and check for consistency. They will wind up sorted by genus and species and then be put away in the cabinet room.

This other picture shows some material that is not nearly so far along in the process. The specimens are still in the tubs that they arrived in. I did not take a close look at them. I suspect that, if the collector who donated them was careful and thorough, they will have determinations and information about the date and place of collection. At the very least, these will have a date and place, or they would not have been accepted in the first place. (Well, maybe they'd be accepted anyway, if they were nice enough for use in the demonstration cabinet or for giving away at an event for kids.)

Many amateur shell collectors attain great expertise to identify the genus and species of many or most of what they collect. The best become self-trained curators, and it's even better if they gain a mentor or two by belonging to a "shellers club"; there are two such clubs in nearby parts of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Shell Club and CenPennBeachcombers.

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