REIMAGINING INVERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY: EMBRACING THE FUTURE WHILE CURATING THE PAST
The collection has a legacy of research importance, housing nearly 14,000 type specimens, which are cited in more than 600 scientific publications. Strengths include the Cretaceous and Cenozoic of the eastern Pacific, providing an invaluable resource for systematics and biostratigraphy. However, research usage has declined, in part due to the loss of many university paleontology programs, the end of major geological mapping efforts, and relevance to the petroleum industry. Today we seek to become a hub for education as well as research. To achieve this goal, we have encouraged scientists, avocational paleontologists, students, and educators to use the collections as a setting to collaboratively research, learn, and teach.
To this end, we have created partnerships with a number of local area universities and community colleges, many of which are minority-serving institutions with limited opportunities for faculty or student involvement with natural history specimens. They have in turn created opportunities for collection-based field trips, lab exercises, capstone research projects, credit-awarding internships, and outreach collaborations. Student interns participate in all aspects of the digitization workflow, and are exposed to museum sciences and outreach activities. Teacher interns develop resources and learning pathways that mutually benefit the museum’s community outreach and provide real-world scientific experiences for local K-12 students. This transformation has created a sustainable environment for curating our historic collections and making them increasingly relevant in the 21st century.