Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014 - (Page 16)
comparative collection of recent specimens, especially marine
and terrestrial molluscs. They are worldwide but focus on
the USA and Texas in particular. They include an important
type and figure collection of about 20,000 specimens, and
some rare historically collected (late 19th century) specimens,
both fossil and recent. Associated archives of catalogs, card
indexes, field notebooks, analytical data, reference books,
photoimagery, and perhaps most importantly, working with a
great bunch of staff, students and volunteers.
New SPNHC Secretary
After this year's elections, SPNHC
has a new Secretary, Ann Molineux
will be taking over for Judith Price,
who has served as SPNHC Secretary for ten years. We thank Judith
for this decade of excellent work
and wish good luck to Ann! Get to
know our new Secretary with the
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
What is your name?
What is your position?
Curator and Collection Manager.
Where do you work?
Non-vertebrate Paleontology Lab (NPL), Jackson School of
Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin.
How many years have you been working in this
14 years at NPL.
When did you join SPNHC?
I think it was 2000, just after I joined what was then part of
the Texas Memorial Museum.
What drew you to the natural history field?
When I arrived here 14 years ago the collections were scattered over four buildings. They are now consolidated in two
buildings. We had no digital database and there was no way
to locate a specimen, unless you had been the curator for 100
years or so! So the first and most important challenge was to
devise a way to solve that problem. We now have a robust
database, still working on data entry and the usual forensic
exercises to make the data as clean as possible. We also know
where almost all the specimens are located. We began in
2004 and crudely mapped the collection cabinet locations,
then got with it and created an accurate ArcMap project for
our buildings, measuring and plotting all the 30 or so cabinet
styles and then linking that map to the database. This was
the first time, to our knowledge that anyone had used a GIS
system in this context and it fulfills a vital role for us. It is
now extended to an online version so that people can browse
from afar! We are slowly adding whole drawer images to that
I grew up close to Beachy Head in England and the pebbly
beaches were so painful to walk on that I took to watching
where I put my feet! I think that is where I began to get interested in rocks and landforms. My first
degree from Cambridge (UK), where I
was a Girtonian, was in Geography with
a special emphasis in Geomorphology. I
spent two exciting summers in the
Negev Desert doing the fieldwork for
my thesis. Although my first position
with the Oxford University Press focused upon data gathering and computer mapping, I finally returned to complete a PhD in Geology with special emphasis on Paleontology (Late Paleozoic
Paleoenvironments) at UT Austin.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Describe the nature of the collections you work
What have you learned from SPNHC to be particularly helpful? How has SPNHC helped you?
NPL has about 4.5 million specimens. The collections include
invertebrate and paleobotanical fossils, geological samples,
microfossils, a fine mineral collection and space related materials, meteorites and tektites. In addition there is an extensive
The Director of Operations at the Texas Natural Science
Center said that I should join SPNHC, especially since I came
from a non-museum background and knew next to nothing about running a collection! She was absolutely correct.
The most exciting aspect is that every time we hit an obstacle or have an idea we seem to locate the right connection
to help us achieve what we need.
Apart from finding some incredibly
talented graduate and undergraduate
students and volunteers, this need
has generated very productive crossdisciplinary links with our Information School and the Texas Advanced
Computing Center. Perhaps equally
fulfilling is being able to tell others about the collections and see them get so excited about
paleontology, and come to realize why we need to keep such
"Networking and learning
from others is such an
invaluable benefit of being
a SPNHC member."
16 * SPNHC Newsletter
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014
From the President
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014