Curating a Trilobite Collection main content.

Curating a Trilobite Collection

    You've already done all the “hard” work… traveling to the shows… venturing into the field… working the internet… interacting with your fellow enthusiasts. Through your various efforts, you've managed to assemble a sizable trilobite collection containing dozens - if not hundreds - of specimens from all corners of the globe. They line cabinets in your home, fill shelves in your office and overflow boxes in your upstairs closet. 
    The logical question then becomes, what the heck do you do next? Perhaps the time has come to make better sense out of your voluminous holdings by properly curating your collection. And thanks to the prodigious amount of information available on the web -- ranging from enlightening museum-sponsored sites (where a variety or trilobite-oriented papers, photos and journals can be found), to amazingly detailed amateur pages -- every collector has access to a compendium of vital data literally at their fingertips.
     The simple fact is that no matter its place of origin, or the degree of scientific attention it may have already garnered, every collection trilobite should be provided with an accompanying identification label and number… one that can be quickly and easily cross-referenced with a list stored conveniently in a notebook, on a series of index cards or in a computer file. Thus whenever anyone comes across a specimen, whether it is  “Belenopyge balliviani (Koslowski, 1923), Lower Devonian, Belen formation, La Paz, Bolivia,” or “Olenellus fowleri (Palmer, 1998), Lower Cambrian, Pioche formation, Nevada”, that trilobite's vital info will be immediately apparent, shedding light not only on its history, but also upon its role within the Paleozoic's evolutionary puzzle.
    In all honesty, there are those within both the paleontological and collecting communities who will inform you that without the proper documentation and labeling -- identifying each specimen as to its genus, species, author (the person who first described the trilobite in literature), location, formation and age -- your prized trilobite is little more than a scientific curio. Some on the more extreme edge of this argument might even state that if your trilobite wasn't collected under the administrative auspices and direct supervision of a trained professional - someone who is able to not only note a specimen's geographical alignment and proper sedimentary deposition, but also its exact GPS coordinates -- then that trilobite has lost virtually all of its paleontological gravitas.
    To that we loudly and clearly say, “bull spit”. The fact is that every trilobite specimen, no matter where it may have been found or under what conditions it was collected, deserves at least some degree of recognition. After all, if one were to place such stringent requirements on the seemingly endless assortment of previously unseen, and so-far undescribed species currently emerging from Morocco, it could be argued that virtually every such trilobite is devoid of scientific value. 
    In truth, it would be difficult, if not downright impossible to properly identify many of these North African specimens… at least until a great deal more research is done upon them. That fact should not make such trilobites any less collectible, or lower their fossilierous appeal. A temporary label, perhaps indicating merely the specimen's genus, age and country of origin, can suffice until additional information becomes available.
    Despite such minor inconveniences, however, for a multitude of trilobite enthusiasts, the proper curation of their collection often ranks among the most enjoyable aspects of their passion. In many cases this process allows them to feel a true sense of accomplishment, a realization that thanks to their efforts, some 500 million years after that particular trilobite met its demise, it now enjoys a level of identity that will hopefully allow it to be studied and enjoyed for many eons to come.