Project Update November 2008
As of November, 2008, all perissodactyl specimens had been moved to refurbished storage facilities in Building 3A. A total of 166 substandard cabinets were removed and discarded. They were replaced with new custom-designed 3-door units fabricated by Delta Designs Ltd. The cabinets were designed to be interchangeable with the existing 3-door units used throughout the AMNH Paleontology collections.
The existing shelving racks have been replaced with 23 heavy-duty bulk storage units equipped with metal decking. These units, rated at over 2,300lbs per shelf level, are much better equipped to provide support to oversized fossil specimens than the previous plywood shelving. The new units have been positioned to allow access from both sides. This makes it easier to locate and move heavy specimens without damaging them.
For the remainder of the project, we will be concentrating on improving the housing of the specimens at the drawer level and below. The first phase of this work, which involved lining the 8,500 specimen drawers in the collection with a layer of ¼” archival quality Ethafoam™, has now been completed. The Ethafoam layer serves two purposes – it provides cushioning for the specimens and also stops them sliding around when drawers are opened and closed, which can cause damage. Our project volunteers and student interns are now moving on to replacing damaged and substandard specimen trays and providing additional supports for especially fragile specimens.
Larger specimens, housed on open shelves, are also getting housing upgrades. All shelves are now lined with ½” Ethafoam ™ and under the direction of collections staff, our volunteers have been using blocks of Ethafoam™ to build heavy-duty specimen mounts. In addition to providing support for the specimens, the mounts allow fragile but heavy specimens to be lifted on and off the shelves without touching the specimen itself. Especially large material has been placed on pallets at floor level, which can be moved out from under the racks using a pallet jack.
As well as improving the physical housing of the specimens, we’ve been working to improve the quality of information that we can provide to users of the collection. For the first time, we now have a complete inventory of all cataloged and uncataloged perissodactyl specimens. Our interns have flagged the locations of all uncataloged material on both floors for later processing. The interns have also been scouring the archives of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in order to obtain in-depth information on the location of the many collecting localities associated with the perissodactyl collection, and capturing descriptions of the fossils from the card catalog to update our on-line database. You can read more about their work in the project blog.
Outreach to the wider community is an important aspect of the Project. In a collaboration with the Museum's Education Department, the Division of Paleontology has been working with Teaching Fellows, recruited from the New York Public School system, to develop web-based teaching resources which draw on the perissodactyl collection to illustrate issues relating to a variety of topics including animal diversity, evolution, ecology, and climate change. These, and much more, will be available via a website on perissodactyl biology and evolution which is due for launch in 2010.
Finally, the Perissodactyl Project is generating some novel spin-offs which will have broadly applicability to collections management. One of these is a comparison of different methods of assessing the state of the collection, which is being undertaken in collaboration with AMNH’s Natural Science Conservation Lab. Collection assessments are an important tool which allow collection managers to determine how best to target limited resources in order to have the biggest impact on the well-being of the collection. We hope that our studies will help to create methodologies that are both efficient and effective.
Watch out for further news on the project via our blog and the Division of Paleontology's News page.
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