Recently I was given a 3-day introduction to curating a Geology collection by Dr David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Science Collections at Manchester. We started appropriately in the bowels of the earth (or basement collection stores) by working through what one might do if suddenly confronted with the responsibility of a mixed geology collection.
First question – what have we got?
In a completely non-panic-stricken way, one works out what one’s got, deciding if the objects are rocks, minerals or fossils using any physical clues and available information (like a handy label!).
Next, decide how to organise the collection – by taxonomy (classification), age, collection, aroma, or according to a particular published system, or a combination of these depending on how the collection is likely to be used.
We looked at taxonomy of fossil collections plus some really useful information on classifying rocks.
Paneth amber collection
Over 2 days, we covered the storage conditions and care appropriate to each of the fossil, rock and mineral collections, bearing in mind any associated risks to object or person, and of course ensuring any associated documentation is securely attached or referenced to the object.
We dipped into the history of the acquisition of the collections, the range of objects, how the type and figured specimens are stored and how the collections are accessed and used. It was a privilege to have all this illustrated by the most amazing objects plucked out of drawers and off shelves, like this beautiful leaf.
Fossil leaf collected by Marie Stopes in Japan.
A neatly curated drawer in the mineral collection