American Association of Museums (AAM) estimates that there are at least 17,000 museums in the united states. ~800 are AAM accreditedRange from all volunteers to 300+ paid employeesSNOMNH, for example, has ~150+ paid employeesIncludes historic sites, houses, zoos, science centers, children’s museums, nature centers, etc.“Academic insect collections” actually museums?
Museum submits a detailed self-study of all areas of their operationsTwo senior staff from comparable museums act as peer reviewers to the study, visit the museum and summarize their observationsThe report and self-study are then submitted to the Accreditation Commission for review and acceptance
De-accessioning: that we once had it, but why and how its not part of our collection anymore
Only until recently have many institutions used Deed of Gifts to relinquish ownership of donorsDifferent states have rules about donations, and who owns the material after a certain pointOklahoma has a rule that after a certain period it is considered “abandonment”, and as the state repository we therefore own it and are responsible for itMaterial we have that was in our collection before we did Deed of Gifts is considered abandoned
Transcript of "Menard ecn 2012"
The Pain of
Dealing with the accessioning of insect
collections: the pros, cons, and if
entomological collections are a special case.
“Museums make their unique contribution to the
public by collecting, preserving and interpreting the
things of this world. Historically, they have owned
and used natural objects, living and nonliving, and
all manner of human artifacts to advance
knowledge and nourish the human spirit.” –
American Alliance of Museums
What exactly is a “museum”, and who decides
Accessioning versus cataloging versus ownership
What is so special about entomology collections
How can we mesh the specific needs of entomology
collections with the expectations and responsibilities
of a museum
Pros and Cons, suggestions
Finding fiscal support of collection infrastructure and
maintenance continues to be a challenge
Pressure to quantify and audit the “value” of a
collection to granting agencies, general public.
When a collection becomes part of a “museum”,
increased advocacy and visibility, but also need for
Information only Specimens/objects only
Level of Interpretation
Museum vs. Collection
American Alliance of Museums certification.
Individualistic per museum
Each museum sets their own rules, but its up to them
to maintain them to have accreditation.
Overall goal: accountability
Written documentation of rules, best practices,
Important that your collection’s needs and voices
are heard in establishment of best practices and
All part of greater effort for
transparency in where,
when and how we got our
Accessioning is not the act of obtaining ownership,
but the documentation of where, when, and how we
got the material.
Did you have the proper permits? Other
Ownership: legal agreements with the donors
releasing all rights to the material, such as Deed of
Deed of Gifts are not standardized, vary by state
They are mine,
Mainly important for items in museums with high
commercial value, ethical complications,
endangered species, etc.
Human remains (NAGPRA)
Fossils (dinosaurs, etc.)
Vertebrate groups, botanical groups
If you are part of a museum with multiple
departments with different needs, have to match the
standards set for all
The “what we have” effort of museums
Effort to quantify the holdings, both for internal and
external transparency, grants, etc.
Tied to accessioning
How did we get our material to catalog?
All specimens in the collection have to have both
sets of data accounted for and processed
Every specimen has to be accessioned
1. Accession as you catalog
2. Catalog everything, then retro-accession
3. Accession as you get new material, hold off on the
rest until you catalog the existing material
If a specimen is missing/broken/damaged, it has to
be de-accessioned before it is thrown away
Prove you know what happened to it
When we accession and “own” a specimen, we own
the physical specimen, not the information
associated with it
Databasing efforts, digitization efforts make
information free and available to the public
Portal out our data to GBIF
Images of specimens: another story
If museum has digital collections from original
sources in other collections and considers them
“owned” by the museum, gets tricky with digital
products with entomology too.
Large: some of the largest natural history
collections both in size and scope
Prolific: Most academic institutions have
entomological collections (especially land-grand
Most of us don’t have completely cataloged or
If your institution is considering becoming a formal
museum and getting accreditation:
Determine how you are going to deal with bulk
material and lots.
How much effort are you going to place on
retroactive accessions? What is your collection’s
Field and real-time specimen research?
Articulate the level of processing time needed in
Processing specimens can take weeks, months, years
Incoming units may change from finished product (lots of
alcohol material to pinned series, sleeved, etc.)
Sooner you articulate the amount of time it takes, the less
you’ll be bugged by the registrar/conservator about why
your accessions aren’t done yet
Also depends on how much information the registrar needs.
The earlier you can get involved,
the easier it will be to implement
MUCH harder to try to fit in with
established rules, especially with
Being part of a larger museum helps with advocacy
of your specific collection needs and infrastructure
Increases attractiveness for federal funding by
aligning with museum standards and best
practicesAccessioning and cataloging efforts will
benefit research programs in the long run.
- sets up a good track record for future donations
Increased paperwork and bureaucracy
Possible redundancy of information for both
cataloging and accessioning
Advocate for the accessioning system to be able to
import your cataloging efforts early on
De-accessioning of material that may or may not be
worth the time
Following talks today.
Lindsay Palaima, SNOMNH Registrar
Dr. John Oswald of the TAMUIC collection for
perspective of a University collection
Entomological Collections Network
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