Welcome to our First Post!
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is home to more than 127 million collection items. These specimens and cultural artifacts come in the shape and size of pinned insects, pressed plants on paper, animals preserved in alcohol, intricately crafted textiles and large dugout canoes. They are found from as far away as outer space, to as close as your own backyard. Explorers and researchers have been collecting artifacts and specimens for the NMNH for more than 150 years. The museum is also home to more than 100 curators and collection managers whose job it is to ensure the preservation and safety of these collections. There are seven distinct scientific departments with collections staff whose specialty it is to care for the collections in their respective departments: Anthropology, Botany, Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Mineral Sciences, Paleobiology, and Vertebrate Zoology.
Collections Program Technician, Amanda Lawrence, cataloging rock and ore specimens from Tobago for the Department of Mineral Sciences. Photo by Erin Bilyeu.
Through its research and laboratories, libraries and collections, exhibitions and education programs, the NMNH is one of the world’s greatest repositories of scientific and cultural heritage. The collections at the NMNH play a vital role for researchers from the Smithsonian and around the world. Scientists working behind the scenes in the museum, at our research stations, field sites and storage facilities, use collections to observe changes over time in biological diversity, climate, and the universe around us. Using the collections to understand our past and present helps guide us in leaving a positive impact on our planet and increasing its future sustainability.
Pinned insects from the Department of Entomology on display at the National Museum of Natural History. Photo by Julie Hoskin.
To make the collections more accessible for scientists, researchers, and students they must be digitized and added to the online collections database. In an effort to help digitize collections (scan, photograph, update electronic records) of such great size and importance, a team of collections technicians known as the Collections Program Technicians (CPT), are working across the scientific departments on a variety of digitization projects. Once digitized this collections information can be made available to researchers and the public via the NMNH’s searchable online collections database. We would like to share with you a little more about the projects we are working on and the scope of work the specimens require to be sustained over time. We look forward to sharing with you about the projects we are working on and the variety of collections we are working with in future blog posts. We hope you find the specimens and collections as fascinating as we do!
Collections Program Technician Laura Tancredi working with pottery sherds from Israel in the Department of Anthropology. Photo by Julie Hoskin.