Curating Natural History Collections

Authored by: Kimberly S. Bostwick

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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Natural history collections are composed of objects of natural origin, most often of biological or mineral nature. These collections include organismal collections (like plant, insect, and animal collections) as well as anthropological and geological collections. Curating such collections requires establishing the longevity of the objects while maintaining their scientific utility. Maximum scientific utility is ensured by preserving with as little modification as possible the object, protecting the object against degradative processes, and managing the object information in an unambiguous and easy-to-retrieve way. While many specialists may be involved in curating larger, more active natural history collections, smaller collections are often managed by only one or two people. The goal of most natural history collections is to create and maintain a scientifically-useful research resource. The uses to which collections are put include educational, artistic, and scientific purposes. Several specific examples are given of how specimens have been used as unique informational resources for scientific research.

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