CURATION OF THE ROYAL H. MAPES INVERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY COLLECTION AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: STRATEGIES FOR DIGITIZATION AND OUTREACH
The AMNH currently has a three-year IMLS grant (MA-30-15-0491-15) to employ six summer interns per year to rehouse, catalog, and create a database for the Mapes Collection. In curating the collection, efficient processing is essential to meet the goals of the grant and to expedite researchers’ access to the collection. In 2017, the grant’s second year, the AMNH amended the approach to the project with the goals of improving workflow, problem solving, and documenting issues that have been resolved. By the end of summer 2017, approximately two thirds of the collection will have been curated.
There are three major phases in the curation and conservation process: specimens are rehoused in archival-quality material, cataloged, and data associated with specimens are captured in databases. Missing or incomplete information creates multiple problems including: inconsistencies in locality information between databases and specimen tags; lack of documentation of locality information sources; and discrepancies in the formatting of database entries.
Work done during this project will only serve a purpose if the collection is maintained and used, and future use relies on making specimen data available, and outreach. To ensure accessibility to the collection, the specimen data will ultimately be uploaded onto online databases, providing worldwide access to researchers, students, and the general public. Building upon established workflow methods and resolving problems encountered in curation, quality-controlled data can be entered more efficiently, easing the future online database transition.
The curation process has been archived in a blog written by the interns. In addition, this year’s documentation standards of data-entry and methods for determining locality information will be compiled for future staff use. By cleaning up the database and establishing a stricter protocol for data entry, we hope to improve access to the collection for anyone working with it in the future.