Type Rehousing Project

Genotype of Promesoreodon
Genotype of Promesoreodon, F:AM 45329, as figured by Schultz & Falkenbach, 1949
F:AM 45329 - 1
F:AM 45329, before rehousing (click on image to see notes)
F:AM 45329 - 2
F:AM 45329, After rehousing (click on image to see notes)
Andrea Youngfert
2006 Summer Intern Andrea Youngfert constructing a custom box
Anna Jerve
2006 Summer Intern Anna Jerve checking specimen dimensions
Nicole Munoz
2007 Summer Intern Nicole Munoz gluing a tri-rod specimen support

A type specimen is any specimen that has been designated as the name-bearer in the original published description of a taxon (Art. 73a, International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 1999). In the Paleontology collections, the term "type specimen"; is usually applied to holotypes (the single specimen or fragment on which a species is based) and genotypes (the single specimen or fragment on which a genus is based). Holotype specimens are marked with a single red diamond, whereas genotypes are labeled with a double diamond. Type specimens are examined when a researcher needs to determine the morphological paradigm associated with a particular name. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 type specimens in Fossil Mammals, and with an average of 50 visiting researchers per year, the collection is examined quite frequently. Because of their frequent handling and use of comparison, it is critical that they are re-housed in proper storage enclosures.

Unlike many museum type collections, which are housed separately from the main collection, the AMNH fossil mammal types are mixed in with the main collection, the rationale being that types are most useful when seen in the context of other material from the taxon concerned. Because of the dispersed nature of the collection, maintaining an accurate inventory of the types has been problematic historically. There are also issues with the physical housing of the specimens, which are often stored using inferior materials (i.e. acidic boxes, acidic tissue, and cotton wadding), and may be poorly supported, over-crowded (i.e. trays were too small, too many specimens within a drawer, etc.), and poorly organized.

The Fossil Mammal Type Collection is currently being inventoried, surveyed, and re-housed in as part of a National Science Foundation supported project (NSF DBI-545155). The first phase of this work, in the summer of 2006, involved two student interns from art conservation and paleontological degree programs. The interns worked with the Museum's Natural Sciences Conservation Lab to develop simple and cost-effective conservation-standard housings for specimens. The condition of each specimen prior to rehousing was recorded and stored in an Access database. In addition, training materials and handling guides were produced to assist Museum staff and volunteers to continue the project after the interns left.