Bring Your Finds to the Museum's Annual Identification Day on June 16 main content.

Bring Your Finds to the Museum's Annual Identification Day on June 16

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Carl Mehling closely inspects a specimen while two visitors watch.
On June 16, 2018, Senior Museum Specialist Carl Mehling and colleagues will be on hand to help visitors identify their discoveries at the Museum’s annual Identification Day.
R. Mickens/©AMNH

Mark your calendars! On June 16, the Museum opens its doors for Identification Day, when Museum researchers and collections managers will help you identify your finds. Popular since the first program made The New Yorker magazine’s Talk of the Town in 1979, the annual event brings in between 2,500 and 3,500 visitors each year, carrying items found on beaches and in backyards. 

As you start thinking about what you’ll bring this year, here is some inspiration from staff in the Museum’s Division of Paleontology, including top items they’ve seen from the public over the years and a preview of what they plan to bring out from the Museum’s collections to share this year.


Division of Paleontology—Vertebrates and Plants

Favorite Visitor Finds: “The most amazing thing was from 2001, a partial Pleistocene walrus skull from a beach in Virginia,” says Mehling. “And in 2016, a Member named Sean Tobin brought in a Late Cretaceous plesiosaur vertebra he found in a brook in New Jersey!”

Highlight for Visitors: Coprolite, or fossil feces, always gets a big reaction. “Kids squeal and cringe when I tell them what it is and remind them that they touched it,” says Carl Mehling, senior Museum specialist in the Division of Paleontology. “Afterwards, when they think no one is looking, a few will sniff it.”



Two Museum visitors display their certificate of identification.
If Museum researchers and collections mangers are able to identify your items, you’ll receive a certificate of identification.
M. Shanley/©AMNH

Division of Paleontology—Invertebrates 

Favorite Visitor Find: “A keychain vial of foraminifera (unicellular amoeba-like organisms with hard shells) from Okinawa, Japan, that I have read about but never seen in person,” says Mariah Slovacek, a Museum specialist in the Division of Paleontology.

Top Tip for Visitors: “If the specimen isn’t delicate, brushing off loose dirt and sand or washing the specimen gently with water helps make it more visible for examination,” says Slovacek.


Need more ideas? Visit the Museum’s website for more tips about bringing items to Identification Day. 

A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.