Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014 - (Page 26)

Features Funding: It's About Time by Kari Harris Maintaining museum collections can be an arduous task, and two of the greatest obstacles in collections work are access to funding and time. Time is often seen as a problem of funding. A collection with funding may hire people to work, thus exchanging money for time. This also works in reverse - a collections worker with time may use that time to gain more funding, often by seeking funding through grants, or through the institution where the collections are housed. Many collections managers focus on the funding aspects to aid them in the collections maintenance. But it is really all about time. A common experience is that funding leads to student involvement, and that is something we have experienced at Arkansas State University (ASU) with success. Initially a scholarship provided the opportunity for my team of four undergraduates and me to begin digitizing collections in the herbarium. As a result, three of us developed a greater interest in collections. One of these students is now a leading undergraduate assistant curator of the university's fish collection, and another is using museum specimens for research on bird hybridization in the Tyrannus genus. These students used their experience in the herbarium to gain a broader appreciation for collections. is that student involvement in collections can lead to funding. Up until recently the collections at ASU were mostly locked away, rarely used, and few students knew they existed. I began talking about the collections with other students and realized that a number of students were interested in learning more about the collections. With the help of my adviser, and some of the other faculty members, we created a class in which we spent a semester exploring the collections housed at ASU. Each week there was a focus on how to curate the different collection types. Classes were usually led by that collection's curator or by a guest speaker. Many of the collections had not been properly curated in several years. In one instance we were able to hear from an emeritus faculty member who prepared and curated the collections previously. We learned about all the collections housed at ASU -fishes, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians, and plants. We also expanded the class to include algae (algae collections experts were Skyped in) and education and outreach (via a visit to the campus museum, which focuses on cultural history). Throughout the class students were encouraged to research a particular collection type, and determine the best curation practices, and write a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the curation of that collection. This class not only guided interested students in learning about collections, but it also gave back tangible products to the university. The SOPs were important because many collections did not have them, or they had not been updated in several years. Additionally, students were required to work in the collections and log their hours. Students worked individually on collections projects, as well as participated in "work days" in which we worked together toward a common goal. We prioritized "saving" the fish collection. It was on the brink of destruction, having been neglected for nearly 20 years. It became the mission of the students to ensure that none of the ASU collections went to waste. "Along with the student organization fundraising, and funding from the university, a total of $900 was raised for the collections in one semester." What may be a less commonly shared experience, but one that is important and likely transferable to other institutions, Members of NHC3 skinning an American alligator 26 * SPNHC Newsletter Because of the student involvement in the Curation of Collections class we realized that what we were doing was important, and that these efforts should go beyond that course and beyond that semester. If we really wanted to "save the collections" there needed to be ongoing efforts to continue curating the collections. As would be expected, time and money were the top requirements needed to accomplish these goals. Out of this necessity we created the Natural History Collections Curation Club (NHC3). Fortunately, at ASU, student organizations can apply for funding for projects. Our initial idea was that we could slowly raise money to restore the collec-

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014

From the President
Society Reports
Calendar 2014
What's New
Member Profile
Travel Grants
Photo Credits

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections April 2014