Course information

Course title
Care and Management of Natural History Collections
University / Organization
Transmitting Science
Academic level
Both Msc and PhD
Course director
Course lecturer(s)
Dr Greg McDonald (Bureau of Land Management, United States of America) John E. Simmons (Museologica, United States of America)
Course aim
Using a combination of lectures, discussions, demonstrations, and readings, this course will teach participants how to better care for and manage all natural history collections (including botany, geosciences, and zoology). The importance of the collections storage environment is emphasized, as well as the identification and selection of inert materials, testing locally available materials, adapting collections care standards to particular environmental conditions, and good management through sound policies and collection planning. Rather than the traditional discipline-based approach, the course teaches collections to care based on collection material and preparation type―dry preparations, wet preparations, and documentation (including paper-based and electronic media). The course will benefit individuals who already have experience in caring for natural history collections, as well as those who intend to work with natural history collections.
Course contents / programme
Monday, April 23rd, 2018. Introduction. History of natural history collections and specimen preservation. Categories of collections. Use and value of collections and impact on research. Importance of collection-based research and specimens as research vouchers. Permits, CITIES, and other laws and regulations. Tuesday, April 24th, 2018. Theoretical and conceptual bases collections management. Preventive conservation in theory and practice. Security issues for natural history collections. Materials used for collections care. Group I—Dry preserved collections and genetic samples. Whole organisms and parts preserved dry or frozen. Tissues. Bones and teeth. Invertebrate shells and exoskeletons. Rocks, fossils, minerals. Health and safety concerns for dry preserved specimens. Collection visit: Paleontology collection at the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont. Wednesday, April 25th, 2018. Collection visit: Zoological, Mineralogical, and Paleontological Collections at the Museum of Ciències Naturals de Barcelona Institut Botànic de Barcelona. Group II—Wet preserved collections. Whole organisms and parts preserved in fluids. Histological preparations. Minerals, rocks and fossils in fluids. Health and safety concerns for fluid-preserved specimens. Thursday, April 26th, 2018. Collection visit: Botanical and Historical Collections, and Botanical Garden at the Institut Botànic de Barcelona. Group III—Documentation. Paper-based records. Film and tape-based records. Electronic records (databases). Molds and casts. Other media. Storage environments and environmental monitoring. Friday, April 27th, 2018. Integrated pest management. Professional standards and ethics. Collections management policies. Collection assessment. Conservation assessments. Collection Health Index. Laboratory Sessions: Beilstein test for chlorides in plastics. Detection of glass deterioration. Identifying glass composition with UV light. Marking topping-up levels with the grease pencil. Use of pH testing pen on paper. Use of pH indicator strips with fluid-preserved specimens. Estimation of lipids in fluids. Smear test for printed documentation. Tape test for printed documentation. Atmospheric pressure demonstration. Surface tension demonstration. Use of visible light meter. Use of ultraviolet light meter. Use of sling psychrometer. Use of dataloggers. Discussions of other important material tests (Oddy test, estimating volatile acids from storage furniture using pH indicator strips; testing inks for lightfastness and solvent resistance). Visit Museum Blau (optional).
Required Knowledge and preparation
Teaching methods
Course type
Consecutive days
Online course
Duration (net days)
April 23rd-27th, 2018
Course fee
Direct e-mail to register
Paper submission required?
Logo of institution
front approval