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Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


ADRAIN, Tiffany, Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa, 121 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242 and THIES, Meagan, E., Museum Studies Certificate Program, Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa, 114 Macbride Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242,

Digitizing paleontology collections and their data is becoming increasingly important as the risk to the scientific value of undocumented specimens is recognized and large scale data-sharing initiatives are developed. Many collections have a large backlog of material awaiting curation and digitization, amassed through historical collecting, orphan collections, bulk donations, and faculty research. The University of Iowa (UI) Paleontology Repository holds over one million specimens, yet only 125,968 specimens or specimen lots are catalogued, and 50,000 specimen records accessible on-line. Documentation and digitization of this backlog can be tackled using a “curation level” survey that identifies the curatorial needs of a collection unit, such as a specimen or sub-collection, and places it along a curation continuum, where undocumented, unprocessed material is at the lowest level of the continuum and a fully documented, organized, digitally accessible collection is at the highest curation level. Within an institution, different collection units can be at different curation levels. The first task is to identify which curation level each collection unit falls into along the continuum and determine what resources are required to prepare the material for digitization within a desired timeframe. The second task is to use curation levels to create a long-term strategy for prioritizing multiple collection units for digitization according to criteria such as achievability, value in being digitized, potential for applied digitization (beyond straightforward data access), and collection demand.

The UI Paleontology Repository recently completed a four-year, National Science Foundation-funded project to digitize the Amoco Conodont Collection, Amoco South Florida Collection, Coral, Micromammal and Trilobite Collections, and to prepare two other collections, the Crossman Echinoderm Collection and the Pope Stratigraphic Collection, for digitization. In addition to sharing data with the Paleontology Portal, methods were developed to make the same data available in various formats for teaching, research and public outreach projects. This latter project now has the potential to develop into a state-wide initiative to promote and make accessible to the public all of Iowa’s natural history collections.

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