Contents tagged with timeline
Created: 1/14/2016 Updated: 7/29/2016
The Chicago Academy of Sciences has been a leader in local ecology and scientific education for 159 years. To commemorate the anniversary of our founding on January 13, 1857, our new exhibit, "Chicago's Explorers," highlights the institution's scientific and educational activities. The exhibit will be on display at the Nature Museum through the end of February.
If you'd like to learn more about the Academy's history, check out our detailed timeline, which will continue to grow as we continue to explore. We hope you enjoy our exhibit and get out to explore nature in Chicago with us!
Director of Collections
The Saloon Building in Chicago, 1839
(Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)
The Saloon Building is where Chicago’s first city government was formed and oversaw the fastest growing city in the world. It was also here that a group of forward-thinking scientists, physicians, and business leaders founded The Chicago Academy of Natural Sciences on January 13, 1857. Some of these founders had been a part of the Smithsonian Institution, which opened its doors just 11 years earlier. The institution was incorporated in 1859 as “The Chicago Academy of Sciences,” which remains our institutional name today.
Robert Kennicott, ca. 1860 (left)
(Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)
Kennicott’s caribou shirt, ca. 1860 (right)
The collections of Robert Kennicott formed the core of the Academy’s initial scientific collections. His expansive studies of Illinois fauna resulted in the discovery of many species new to science, some of which were named after him by other scientists, including the stripe-tail darter (Etheostoma kennicotti) and the western screech owl (Otus kennicotti). Kennicott also led the first U.S. scientific study of Russian America—the place that eventually became the state of Alaska. He died there while on expedition, on May 13, 1866.
The Great Chicago Fire consumed the city for three days from October 8 to 10, 1871. On the final day, the fire approached the Academy. The building was equipped with a fire proof vault and, with this in mind, staff quickly stored everything of importance there, expecting the building to be damaged but their valuable scientific collections and research notes to be saved. The heat from the fire was so great that it melted the supports of an ornamental limestone cornice at the top of the building, causing it to fall and crash through the roof of the vault. This structural failure allowed the fire to sweep inside and destroy the vault’s contents, along with the museum and most of the rest of the collections.
Academy staff were devastated. William Stimpson, the Academy’s director from 1866 to 1872 and a prominent malacologist (a scientist who studies shelled animals such as clams), lost his life’s work in the fire. In just a few moments the “the Smithsonian of the West” and the fourth largest scientific collection in the country was gone, and the Academy’s future was in question.
Matthew Laflin Memorial Building, 1894
Following the fire, the scientific community and public rallied around the Academy. Businessman and philanthropist Matthew Laflin was the primary funder for a new building, which opened on October 31, 1894 in Lincoln Park. In this new space, much of the Academy’s earlier scientific work, including natural history collecting, was able to continue and a new emphasis was placed on community involvement. This would be the Academy’s home for the next 100 years.
Frank C. Baker in the field around Skokie, 1908
At its founding, the Academy was one of only a few natural history museums in the nation. As such, its purview extended from coast to coast. As other similar institutions were founded, the Academy narrowed its scientific work to focus primarily on the Midwest and on specific kinds of organisms. Frank Baker, an Academy curator from 1894 to 1915 and prominent malacologist, conducted ecological surveys across Illinois and scientifically described many new species of snails. Among his significant publications are The Mollusca of the Chicago Region, several papers on anatomy of Lymnaea (a group of common pond snails), and a taxonomy of the family Muricidae (a diverse group of sea snails). Many of these publications are still relevant to malacological research today, and the historical record provided by Baker’s surveys gives us high-quality comparison data to assess how our local ecosystem has changed in the past hundred years.
Academy staff developing a photographic enlargement for a diorama, ca. 1915
Traditionally, animal specimens were preserved as study skins or as crudely stuffed mounts. Then, in the early 1910s, a man named Carl Akeley pioneered new specimen preparation techniques that enabled him to create more realistic displays. The Academy also began to experiment with these ideas, and devised large, meticulously detailed dioramas as a new way to represent local species and natural areas.
Frank Woodruff, an ornithologist, curator, and director at the Academy from 1896 to 1926, oversaw the development of the “Chicago Environs Series,” a group of exhibits that presented natural areas around Chicago. His first life-size diorama, depicting the dunes ecosystem and the Calumet River, used photographs that were enlarged up to 11 feet high by 10 feet wide for the backdrops. Here, Woodruff (in suspenders) and other Academy staff process one of these diorama backdrops.
Academy field trip to Starved Rock State Park, ca. 1915
Field trips, like the one pictured here, were among the many ways the Academy actively included the Chicago community in its scientific work and promoted the appreciation of nature. Students who accompanied Academy naturalist Henry Cowles to the Indiana Dunes gathered data that eventually resulted in his theory of ecological succession—the idea that a habitat naturally progresses (e.g. from pond to wetland to shrubland to forest) as certain species dominate resources and then die off. In addition to offering field trips, the Academy’s innovative teacher training programs helped make Chicago’s teachers some of the most scientifically literate educators around, while lectures, films, and nature walks were popular with the broader community. For local naturalist groups, the Academy provided a home with space to meet and experts to interact with.
Leonara Gloyd in Arizona with a badger, 1937 (left)
Howard K. Gloyd in Arizona, 1937 (right)
Continuing efforts to document and study biodiversity, the Academy conducted several faunal surveys of the American Southwest between 1937 and 1946. The specimens, photographs, and motion film brought back to Chicago were shared through public lectures and publications, providing many Chicagoans with their first look at this desert environment. Spearheading the Arizona expeditions was Howard Gloyd, a herpetologist and director of the Academy from 1936 to 1958. Among many other scientific advancements, Gloyd published “The Rattlesnakes: Genera Sistrurus and Crotalus” and so defined North America’s most iconic snakes, including Illinois’ now-endangered Massasauga. His wife, Leonara, studied dragonflies and accompanied him on at least one of the Arizona expeditions.
William J. Beecher at a local beach along Lake Michigan with a reporter looking at birds killed by a major storm, 1969
During the 1960s and ‘70s, the Academy revitalized its exhibits and expanded its education and outreach programs to further focus on Midwestern ecology. Under the leadership of William Beecher, director from 1958 to 1982 and an avid ornithologist and photographer, the Academy increased its involvement in local environmental issues, from preserving the Indiana Dunes to monitoring bird collisions with windows. Beecher also implemented the Junior Academy of Sciences, a program aimed at middle and high school students to provide extracurricular learning opportunities for young people interested in science. Today we still have active volunteers who began in the Junior Academy fifty years ago.
Academy symposiums, 1988 to 1990
Throughout its history, Academy lectures and symposiums have provided a venue for the community to learn about and be involved in scientific discussion. From the 1970s to 1990s the focus shifted away from taxonomic research to address pressing environmental issues, science education practices, and urban biodiversity. Among the influential meetings hosted by the Academy:
- “The Chicago Urban Environmental Conference” (1977) helped coalesce the land stewardship movement in Chicago.
- “Understanding Chimpanzees Symposium” (1986) and “Understanding Chimpanzees: Diversity and Survival” (1991) were attended by Jane Goodall and later credited by her as influencing to her work.
- “Science Learning in the Informal Setting” (1987) highlighted the importance of experiential learning.
- “Sustainable Cities Symposium: Preserving and Restoring Urban Biodiversity” (1990) was an early recognition of the role that urban habitat plays in conservation.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 1999
(Photo credit Dan Rest)
After 100 years in the Laflin Building, the Academy opened the doors to its new, larger home in Lincoln Park, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, in October 1999. The Nature Museum provided the Academy a fresh venue through which to engage its audiences and continue to address the local environment in its exhibits, programs, and research.
Academy conservation work, 2001 to 2015
Since 2001, the Academy has been leading conservation efforts for a variety of local, threatened species. In the Istock Family Butterfly Conservation Lab, thousands of rare butterflies are bred for release, including the Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis muticum) and Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia). Partnering with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Academy staff have raised and released 236 baby Blanding’s turtles into the Chicago Wilderness region. Just this past fall, an Academy scientist found a hatchling Blanding’s turtle in the wild—the first one recorded within the project area since 1998.
Conservation efforts at the Academy include both animal husbandry and wild population monitoring, the success of which is largely due to the active participation of volunteer citizen scientists. Today, the Academy leads several citizen science initiatives: the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network, Project Squirrel, and The Calling Frog Survey. Award-winning lesson plans, teacher development courses, and public programs build on and support the Academy’s conservation efforts.
Explore nature in Chicago with us!
Chicago is an urban area, and yet, nature exists all around us. What kind of nature is in your backyard or neighborhood? How do you interact with nature? Share your urban nature experiences with us through social media, #urbannature.View Comments
Created: 1/17/2014 Updated: 8/9/2016
Chicago native and ornithologist Dr. William Beecher becomes the Academy’s Director. He holds this position for 24 years.
Dr. William Beecher works on background for a diorama.
From the Chicago Academy of Sciences Archives, Photography Collection.
Junior Academy of Sciences formed for middle and high school children, to provide additional learning opportunities for young people in science studies and research.
Beecher implements redesign of exhibit spaces, including opening of the third floor of the Laflin building to the public.
Paul G. Heltne, PhD, zoologist and primatologist, is appointed Director of the Academy. He holds this position until 1999.
An Education Department is formally established at the Academy, although education has been a primary focus of the institution since the 1910s.
Museum sponsors “Understanding Chimpanzees Symposium,” welcoming primatologists from all over the world, including well-known Jane Goodall, and providing public attendance to portions of the symposium as well.
For the first time since 1951, the endangered Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrines, successfully produces eggs that hatch on a ledge of a downtown Chicago office building. Mary Hennen, Collections Manager/Assistant with the Academy, worked on the Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Program while at the Academy and conducted research. She took this project with her, when she left the Academy to work at the Field Museum of Natural History.
Juvenile Peregrine falcon
Fall - Pilot programs for Science on the Go! began. This program, still active today, provides training and resources for kindergarten through eighth grade educators in teaching science through more hands-on lessons and cooperative learning.
Jon D. Miller, Vice President of the Academy, establishes the Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy under the auspices of the Academy.
The Academy initiated plans for an addition at the Laflin building to expand and modify it to provide more room for exhibition, collections storage, and office space. The Chicago Park District who owns the land on which the Laflin building rests, disallowed expansion, citing the need to limit construction in park areas to ensure the continuation of park lands for future generations as dictated by their original charter. At the same time, the Lincoln Park Zoo also began looking to expand their operations. The Chicago Park District offered the Academy the opportunity to build a new museum building on the site of the Park District’s North Shops Maintenance Facilities in exchange for transferring the Academy’s Laflin building to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Today the Laflin Building is used by the Lincoln Park Zoo as administration offices.
June 4 - Academy closed to the public to begin move out of the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building at Armitage and Clark Street in Lincoln Park, where the institution had resided for 102 years. Staff offices, the museum collections, the archives, and the scientific library, were moved to another building on Clark Street owned at that time by the museum and to additional space on Ravenswood. The second facility is now the Ravenswood Collections Facility. To maintain a public face for the Academy during construction, the museum had a temporary facility on the third floor of North Pier on Illinois Street which was open to the public.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences breaks ground for a new building in Lincoln Park. In recognition of the donation made to the Academy by Mr. and Mrs. Notebaert, the building was named the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network, a citizen science program dedicated to “collecting quantitative data on butterfly populations” moved under the auspices of the Academy through Doug Taron, Curator of Biology and Vice President of Conservation and Research.
Summer – Museum begins partnership with El Valor, a multi-cultural and multi-purpose organization whose, “…mission is to support and challenge urban families to achieve excellence and participate fully in community life,” through a summer camp for children. The partnership has expanded today to programs for adults with disabilities, conductive education, family field trips to the Museum, after school programs, and professional development for Head Start teachers including visits to their classrooms.
October - The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum building opens to the public. The Academy’s collections and Collections Department staff offices remain at the Ravenswood Collections Facility, where they are still housed today.
Education Department began onsite workshops. To date this initiative has reached 20,000 students.
Joe Schactner appointed President and CEO of the Academy.
Butterfly Restoration Program started with funding from the BP Leaders Award. The Swamp Metalmark, Calephelis muticum, and Silver-bordered Fritillary, Bolaria selene, were the first imperiled species added to the program.
Fall - Teacher Leadership Center opened at the Museum.
Laureen Von Klan appointed President and CEO of the Academy.
Education department revamps its Science Teaching Network (STN). Started in the early 1990s the program provides training for teachers through an intensive summer institute that is followed by classroom support in the fall. Since this year, 300 teachers have been through the program.
Nature Museum Summer Camps began.
Summer – Museum opens its first self-curated exhibit, “Lawn Nation” since its move into the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Collections Department begins to inventory all of the natural history holdings within the Academy’s collection with grant support from the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences. The initiative took 5 years to complete and over 280,000 specimens and objects were verified.
Museum began participation in Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program, a conservation effort spearheaded by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, to rear and release endangered Blanding’s Turtles, Emydoidea blandingii, into their natural environment. Sub-Adult Blanding’s Turtles put on display at the Museum. Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections, heads the museum effort.
Butterfly Conservation Lab opened at the Museum, a permanent research lab for the Butterfly Restoration Program.
An expanded version of Project Squirrel, a citizen-science program, moved under auspices of the Academy through Steve Sullivan, Senior Curator of Urban Ecology. The program was created in 1997 by Joel Brown and Wendy Jackson both professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Collections Department begins two-year project to process about 250 linear feet of materials in their Manuscript Collection in the Archive with grant support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation.
Participation in Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program expands. Museum helps head start hatchlings for two years, release two year old head starters with radio transmitters in the fall, track them in the spring to replace radio transmitters, track females to see if they are gravid, collect females when they are, release them after they have laid, and track the head starters again in late summer to put on their winter transmitters.
July 1 - Deborah Lahey appointed President and CEO of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. She had previously served on the Board of Trustees and then as Chief Operations Officer (Dec 2009 to June 2010).
February – First meeting of what would become Project Passenger Pigeon (P3) occurred at Museum. Initial participants included representatives from Smithsonian Institution, Cornell University, Michigan State University, the Indiana State Museum, Wesleyan University, University of Wisconsin, University of Louisiana, National Council for Science and the Environment, and the Illinois Natural History. Project has expanded to include over 160 organizations from all over the United States and will culminate in various events throughout 2014.
April 11 – Self-curated exhibit “Nature’s Architects” opened.
Museum began head starting more Blanding’s Turtles.
Working with Chicago Film Archives, Collections Department began assessment and re-housing of their motion picture film collection, about 1370 individual reels, with grant support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation. Collection composed of original nature studies to some commercially produced reels. Project to be completed in early 2014.
Museum became the home for the Chicago Conservation Corps.
Butterfly Restoration Program released lab-reared Regal Fritillary, Speyeria idalia, butterflies into natural habitat.
Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network takes a national leadership role serving as a model for similar programs in states all over the United States. A collective database for information from networks all over the country is developed to provide easier access to information.
February 10 – First Annual Chicago Volunteer Expo held at Museum. Over 60 local nonprofit institutions participated, providing information on volunteer opportunities in one convenient location.
March 23 – Self-curated exhibit “Food: The Nature of Eating” opened.
Butterfly Restoration Program released lab-reared Swamp Metalmark, Calephelis muticum, butterflies into natural habitat.
Project Squirrel released smartphone app.
Blanding’s Turtle Conservation Lab constructed to accommodate the 42 hatchlings entrusted to the Museum for head starting as part of the Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program.
Assistant Collections Manager
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Created: 1/15/2014 Updated: 8/9/2016
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The Academy re-emphasizes its commitment to education in the natural sciences. Its programming is not only for young students, but also continuing education and certification for teachers that focuses on understanding and interpreting the natural sciences. In addition the Academy starts offering regular free lectures on various scientific subjects to the public.
Laflin Memorial Building, Chicago Academy of Sciences, ca. 1915
From Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection, 8x10 Glass Plate Negatives
Academy establishes a Children’s Library to “promote science education and engage young people in the study of the natural sciences.”
Children reading in the Children’s Library of the Chicago Academy of Sciences
From the Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection
May-June - Academy participates in city-wide Child-Welfare Exhibit, promoting education and highlighting institutions that already have programs established.
Work starts on developing new exhibit displays to better represent the natural flora and fauna of the area. Work completed by Frank C. Baker, Curator and Malacologist, and Frank Woodruff, Curator, Taxidermist, and Ornithologist, under initial guidance of Wallace Atwood, Acting Director and Secretary of the Board of Trustees.
June - The Atwood Celestial Sphere opens at the Academy. It is the first planetarium in the United States and was designed by Wallace W. Atwood, Acting Director of the Academy. The Sphere is now a part of the Adler Planetarium’s collections.
(left) Atwood Celestial Sphere as seen from the outside. (right) Atwood stands inside his completed Sphere. From Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection
Frank Woodruff made Director of the Academy and completed his first life-size diorama depicting the dunes ecosystem and the Calumet River.
Photographic print of compiled image for Calumet River diorama background made up of four shots. From Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection, 8x10 Glass Plate Negatives.
Alfred M. Bailey, Ornithologist, appointed Director of the Academy.
Bailey makes trips to Louisiana to conduct still and motion picture photography of birds migrating along the coast. Bailey had worked at the Louisiana Academy of Sciences earlier in his career and had formed relationships with other ornithologists and bird enthusiasts in the area.
Seguard and Bailey (with camera) filming birds in Louisiana.
Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection.
Bailey, working with collectors in Alaska, starts collecting birds and birds eggs, culminating in the publication in the Academy’s Program of Activities, “Birds of the region of Point Barrow, Alaska” in 1933. Bailey had worked in southeastern Alaska from 1919-1921 on a survey for the Bureau of Biological Survey, so again had contacts and interest in the area before coming to the Academy.
Academy, with University of Chicago, sends field team to Great Smoky Mountains where a new subspecies of rock vole, Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis is discovered.
Academy co-sponsors further field research in Great Smoky Mountains in cooperation with the U.S. National Park Service. Specimens from this survey still reside in Academy’s collections, and trip resulted in publication, “Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains,” part of the Bulletin series published by the Academy in 1938.
A Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda, collected during the Faunal Survey of the Great Smoky Mountains. Chicago Academy of Sciences Mammalogy Collection.
Dr. Howard Gloyd appointed Director of the Academy.
Howard K. Gloyd, standing in Arizona desert.
From Chicago Academy of Sciences Archives, Photography Collection.
Additional activities while Director of the Academy (1936-1957) were the expansion of the Academy’s scientific publications, the continued additions to the public lecture series historically offered by the Academy, and Gloyd’s personal research on snakes with an emphasis on rattlesnakes.
Dr. Gloyd, a rattlesnake expert, organizes expeditions to Arizona. The specimens he collected are still in the Academy’s scientific collections today. The first expedition was in 1937, the second in 1940, and the third in 1946.
Amber KingView Comments
Assistant Collections Manager
Created: 1/13/2014 Updated: 8/9/2016
Group of men interested in natural sciences begins to meet in offices of fellow member, Dr. Edmund Andrews. Other original members were: Dr. James V.Z. Blaney, Dr. Nathan S. Davis, Sr., James W. Freer, C.A. Helmuth, Dr. Hosmer A. Johnson, Henry Parker, J. Young Scammon, Dr. Franklin Scammon, Richard K. Swift, Joseph D. Webster, Eliphalet W. Blatchford, and Henry W. Zimmerman.
“Chicago Academy of Natural Sciences” officially founded only eleven years after the Smithsonian Institution and 36 years before the Field Museum of Natural History.
“A definite organization was completed at a meeting held January 13, 1857…[and] officers elected”.
Academy incorporated into Illinois state law as “The Chicago Academy of Sciences.”
“A majority of the members of the Academy, acting in accordance with a vote of the Academy, have incorporated themselves under the title of The Chicago Academy of Sciences….”
February 22 - Meeting held to discuss creation of natural history museum with Robert Kennicott’s specimens as the “core collection”; resolution adopted by attendees to create a museum and to appoint a committee to act as trustee of any funds raised.
March 23 - Robert Kennicott appointed “Curator of the Museum” by the Board of Trustees.
April 13 - Committee appointed on February 22 turned into the Board of Trustees through an amendment to the Academy’s constitution.
January 1 - The Academy opened as a museum to the public in rooms in the Metropolitan Block located at 134 North LaSalle Street.
February 16 - Act of Incorporation passed by the Illinois House and Senate for the Academy.
William Stimpson became the Curator and Secretary of the Academy replacing Robert Kennicott who was leaving Chicago on an expedition to Alaska. Kennicott met Stimpson while working in Washington, D.C. as both men worked for the Smithsonian Institution.
April 7 - Board of Trustees elects Robert Kennicott to the office of “Director of the Academy” while he is in Alaska on his exploration trip.
May 13 - Robert Kennicott dies in Alaska on the Nulato River.
June 7 - Fire in the Metropolitan Block where the Academy rented space for exhibits damaged the museum’s holdings, including specimens and library materials.
November 12 - William Stimpson elected as Director of the Academy.
Land is purchased on the corner of Wabash and Van Buren streets for a new museum building.
Academy opens in new rented spaces on Thirtieth Street between Indiana and Prairie Avenues.
Chicago Microscopical Club (State Microscopical Society of Illinois) is organized as an independent organization but maintains close affiliation with Chicago Academy of Sciences through 1950s, using Academy spaces for meetings and education programs. Many of the founders of the Club are also founders of Academy, such as Dr. Hosmer A. Johnson and Dr. Edmund Andrews..
The Academy’s collection is estimated to be the fourth largest in the country.
October 8-10 - The Great Chicago Fire destroys much of Chicago; the Academy’s building and holdings are decimated, including materials housed in a special “fire-proof” vault. Apparently a keystone fell through the top of the vault during the fire, thus creating an opening and allowing the fire into the vault.
May 26 - Director, Dr. William Stimpson, dies nine months after the Great Fire. It is thought that he died of heartbreak as he lost his life’s work in the fire, stored in the Academy’s “fire-proof” vault.
Academy moved into the Interstate Exposition Building on the lake front. This was a temporary structure that later was demolished to build the Chicago Art Institute.
Real estate tycoon, Matthew Laflin, donated $75,000 to construct a new museum. The building was to be named the “Matthew Laflin Memorial.” Total funds available for the new building were $100,000; the Laflin donation represented 75% of the total costs of the building. $25,000 received from the Board of Commissioners of Lincoln Park.
October 10 - The cornerstone for the Academy’s new building is laid.
October 30 - The World’s Columbian Exposition closes and many exhibits of plants, fossils, and animals originally displayed at the Exposition remain. Academy Board of Trustee, Edward Ayer, proposes accepting and incorporating these specimens into the Academy’s collection, but other Trustees are wary, citing the need to quickly launch the massive fund drive needed to quickly finish the building as well as transporting and finding housing for the specimens. Ayer resigns from the Board and turns to Marshall Field for the funds to build a new museum with Field’s name, ultimately becoming the Field Museum of Natural History.
October 31 - The Academy’s new building is dedicated and opens in Lincoln Park. The institution’s name, “Chicago Academy of Sciences,” was engraved on the front arch accompanied by the dedication of the building, “Matthew Laflin Memorial.” This building was referred to internally as the “Laflin Building.” The building was originally intended to be the north wing of a larger museum building with additions to be constructed in the future.
Chicago Academy of Sciences circa 1894
Amber KingView Comments
Assistant Collections Manager