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Contents tagged with collections

  • Tracking a Museum Collection

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    Tags: inventory, Chicago Academy of Sciences, collections, data, cataloguing, specimens

    Created: 3/16/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    One, two, three, four...

    Chipmunk specimens



    Keeping track of items in a museum collection requires organization. A LOT of organization. Collections staff track where specimens and artifacts are stored and record any time they move, such as when they go on loan or on exhibit. We track the condition of a specimen and any procedures that we undertake to resolve preservation issues. We make notations about how much deterioration a specimen is subjected to when it is on display in an exhibit. We document information about the specimen, such as who collected it, when, and where. But to be able to do all of this, we first need to know what we have!

    Malacology specimens in vials



    How do you go about inventorying a museum collection?  In a word: methodically.  A small army of staff, interns, and volunteers went through the Academy's collection for our inventory.  It took us five years, but cabinet by cabinet, each and every item was handled, counted, and described -- bird and mammal study skins, pinned insects, fossils, pressed plants, snail shells -- over 280,000 items!  We created a new digital record in a database for each item we documented so that the inforamtion is in one place.

    Bat specimen



    What, exactly, does this mean?  It means that our Collections staff can now look up information about our collection in a database, rather than sifting through old musty ledger books and multiple, out-of-date card catalogue systems.  These searches are faster and more comprehensive.  We can provide this library of specimens and corresponding data to researchers and help answer questions about the environment.  More of the collection can be incorporated into our exhibitions and educational programs to help illustrate issues relevant to the Midwest and allow our visitors to see these treasures first hand.

    • Ascession book
    • Card system

    It means we have a much clearer picture of not only what is in our collection, but the history of it all as well.  And knowing what we have makes tracking it, and building a reservoir of information about it, much easier.  Many thanks go to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for their generous support of our collections inventory project.

    Dawn Roberts
    Collections Manager

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  • Nature on the Go Debuts in 2012

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    Tags: education, nature, Biology, animals, collections

    Created: 11/29/2012      Updated: 8/10/2016

    Do you know the difference between a mount and a study skin? Or what a bird's nest can tell us about the birds who live in it? Or what's with those honeybees that are always in the news? Well, your kids just might!

    Our newest education program, Nature on the Go, connects students to real specimens from the Museum’s collections, answering these questions and delving into other exciting science and nature topics! If you wonder how we do this, take a look at some of the specimens that were prepared just for this program:

    • Frog skeleton

    • Bee specimens with honeycomb

    • Squirrel study skins

    Nature on the Go allows us to bring the rich, 155 year history of the collections of the Chicago Academy of Sciences into Chicago area schools to showcase how specimens can tell us about the lives of local animals. Think about your own visit to a museum: you don’t just want to see each piece of art, set of bones, historical artifact, or plant or animal; you want to know its story! This program teaches the students we serve how to read these stories. Because the program features local animals, students will continue to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and the nature they see right outside their doors in their own neighborhoods.

    We know that teachers need choices and flexibility, so we’re excited to give Nature on the Go teachers a choice for the second part of the program, which takes place after a Nature Museum educator visits the classroom. Some teachers may choose to receive funding to bring their students to the Museum on a field trip, giving the students an opportunity to connect what they learned in the classroom to the world outside of school.

    Other teachers might choose to visit (with a guest) our offsite collections facility to learn more about the 95 percent of our museum collections that aren’t on display in the Museum. These teachers can learn more about the important role specimens play in scientific research and talk with our expert biologists about the stories these specimens can tell. Of course, the teachers will leave the collections facility excited to share their new knowledge with their students! We love that we can share the history of the Chicago Academy of Sciences with teachers and students.

    Developed as a true collaboration between the Education and Biology Departments, this program is on its way to a school near you!

    Michelle Rabkin
    Student Programs Coordinator

    Nathan Armstrong
    Registration Coordinator

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