Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
This week we finished element descriptions. Each intern was given two card catalog drawers of which we were to transcribe the description of each specimen into a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will eventually be transferred into the electronic database Paleocat. Having completed element descriptions and inventory sheets we are now focusing on geo-referencing and lining as many drawers as possible as we head into our last week.
On Wednesday we were given a tour of the Exhibition department. They are currently in development and construction of a new exhibit that will focus on climate change. We were shown the construction of a model of “a ton of coal” and a polar bear that will be rooting through a trash pile in search of food. While the construction of the trash pile was a wonderful example of the creativity of the Exhibtion crew, its intended impact was felt by everyone – we are neglecting our planet. This was an interesting department to visit, the walls and ceilings display many parts of previous exhibits, including “death masks” of some of the historic mammals currently on display.
Friday morning we were treated to an early morning tour of the 4th floor by FARB Collections Manager Carl Mehling. This was one of the most interesting tours because he shared many of the secrets that went into constructing these exhibits – from the challenges that went into hanging models and a few real specimens from the ceilings, to moving enormous exhibits from room to room, and dealing with the constant damage created by vandalism and the daily parade of Museum Guests. Despite these problems the 4th floor exhibits are beautifully constructed, and the important role that they play in bringing science to the public is immeasurable.
Friday, August 8, 2008
So that begs the questions - why is it going faster some weeks than others? And how much will we really be able to complete before we leave on August 22nd? To begin to answer that, I think it's best to show two pictures that exemplify the two extremes we're working with:
Sometimes we have cabinets that are filled to the top with drawers, and those drawers are full of more specimens than you can count (one cabinet we did had 14 drawers). Others will have one or two drawers that have maybe one large fossil in them. This makes some days much faster than others. Overall, though, we've finished 400 of the approximate 700 cabinets that will ultimately be on floor three. Assuming the movers keep up their current rate (and we do as well), we'll probably finish another 160 cabinets in the next two weeks. Although it will mean that we haven't completed the rehousing (there will be ~140 cabinets left to line) it will bring the project very close to completion.
On another note, we've had some very interesting tours over the last couple of weeks. Last week we were treated to a tour of Earth & Planetary Sciences where, among other things, we got to hold a piece of Mars. This week, we visited the Anthropology department and saw parts of the collection (mostly North American materials) as well as the "Smudging Room" - the only room in the museum where it is OK to burn things. This room was created expressly for tribal delegations that visit the department and wish to perform a smudging ceremony with specific ethnological artifacts.
Well, that's about it for this week. Enjoy the last weeks of summer and we'll be back with an update next Friday.
Friday, August 1, 2008
That being said, there's only so much we can describe through writing in this blog. I thought this week it would be best to show instead of tell...
This is a box full of Dinohippus fossil foot/ankle bones. The Perissodactyl project is working to upgrade storage conditions (the box above is a collection manager's worst nightmare), and part of that is lining drawers, but another important part is keeping track of how many specimens in the horse cabinets are uncatalogued (have not been assigned an AMNH number and therefore have not been officially added to the paleontology catalog).
For comparison's sake, here is a picture of what a more ideal storage situation would look like:
So you can see, in many cases we've got our work cut out for us. We're not worried, though - we are confident that in the next three weeks we will be able to line and inventory the majority (if not all) of the third floor storage area.
An ethafoam horse made out of scraps. Sometimes you just need a break from mounds of horse teeth.