Paper No. 342-3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM
AN ASSESSMENT OF NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS DATABASE PRACTICES
Harnessing digital technology in order to store scientific specimen data in perpetuity is a complex obstacle facing natural history museums today. As research and collections staff apply more advanced analytical and imaging techniques to specimens housed in scientific collections, the question of how to store and manage new specimen-derived data formats, such as computed tomography scans, surface scans, histological sections, isotopic analyses, and frozen tissues, often arises. The evolution of collections database management systems has resulted in a variety of options for natural history collections to store specimen data and to connect all data to the objects from which they are derived. This study surveys the database practices of different types of natural history collections (paleontological, geological, zoological, and botanical). Collections managers from different natural history disciplines were observed performing routine database tasks and interviewed about the database management software their institution utilizes. The aim is to assess the collection staff’s knowledge-base of the databases they work with on a daily basis, to determine what additional database training should be made available to employees, and to evaluate how the usability of database schemas could be improved to more accurately represent the information natural history collections need to preserve about their specimens.