Lead To Change: How Natural History Collections Can Impact Collection Care


Natural history collections are wonderful repositories of knowledge and beauty. They hold information about where and when different organisms have lived in our planet, about diverse human cultures around the globe, and about the building blocks of planet Earth. They house specimens and cultural objects as well as art, archives, field notes, and scientific instruments, to name only a few. Research and exhibit have traditionally been the main goals of these collections but throughout the years, many institutions have begun to embrace the power of community connections and the importance to decolonize attitudes towards access. Natural history institutions are also key players in the understanding of climate change and its effects on human life and collection care. In addition, the great numbers associated with these collections make them ideal to understand sustainable models for environmental control and reduction of carbon footprint. Conservation of natural history collections involves the understanding that every item in the collection may be researched, exhibited, used, or worn, which adds to the complexity of their care. Unfortunately, conservation of natural history collections does not have the same access to funding sources as other disciplines, limiting the treatment of important specimens, objects, and art, but also limiting who enters the field, as most fellowships in conservation exclude the work on these types of collections. Natural history institutions are becoming well connected through efforts as those by the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, but still lack connections to non-natural history institutions. This translates into siloed expertise and lack of networking, which only hinders innovation and creativity in the care of all heritage collections. By building bridges of collaboration between different museums, collections, and disciplines, natural history collections can become key players in aiding to understand our changing world, while preserving collections for the future.

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