Saturday, April 10, 2010

One Door Closes....

After 4 years, my NSF fossil mammal collection improvement grant at AMNH is coming to end. It probably won't impress the know-nothings at Fox News, but we managed to train 18 student interns, a whole army of volunteers, and we gave the good folks at Delta Designs of Topeka KS over $150K of orders - and you can add to that another $100K of orders that we were able to leverage from AMNH using the grant (this was before the Crash, of course - oh happy days). We built a website on perissodactyl evolution, a project blog, and a Facebook group because this is 2010, Dudes, and if you're not on Facebook you, like, don't exist.

More importantly, we rehoused over 66,000 specimens in modern cabinetry (it's sealed! it locks!); we now know how many Type specimens in the AMNH fossil mammal collection (1,525, if you're interested) because someone has now checked and rehoused each and every one of them in a custom-built mount; we've georeferenced 1,265 specimen localities down to digital latitude and longitude and 1,804 to at least county level (pretty amazing when you consider that most of them only had a locality name when we started); and we've added specimen descriptions to the on-line collection database so that you can actually tell what they are when you seach for them. All of which adds up to a collection that will be around for a lot longer and will be a lot more accessible to users.

The NSF project was only part of a much larger project to overhaul the fossil mammal collections at AMNH. It started in 2003 and is still grinding on today under the guidance of my colleagues Jeanne Kelly and Ruth O'Leary; they estimate that it still has at least 2-3 years to go. And that just marks the end of the physical moves and cabinet upgrades. After that comes the specimen rehousing and the data upgrades for the vast majority of the collection that wasn't covered by the grant. Not to mention the 250,000+ specimens that are not yet cataloged and available on-line. I suspect that a lot of people are going to be busy for a long, long time.

However, the end of the grant marks the end of my involvement with the project. It's a bit of a poignant moment - 7 years reduced to a single line in a resume. But it was a mess, and I helped make it a bit better. Which is the best you can ever say in collection management.


  1. Congrats on the project and best of luck!

  2. I hope that we can make something close to this successful claim in the next 4 years....