Reply To: Curation of Personal Collections

Homepage Forums Digitizing, Photographing, and Curating Fossils Curation of Personal Collections Reply To: Curation of Personal Collections

Walter Stein

Hunter @hunter-thurmond

I know what you mean. It’s very easy to walk away from some sites with too much stuff. When I was in college, I had a tendency to collect every little scrap I found. After several years of field trips, I had buckets worth of invertebrates that I had no real use for that took up lots of space. Now, I’ve become very selective in what I keep and what I leave in situ for others. When it comes to inverts, I keep a personal “research set” that I use to help make identifications. Particularly useful with ammonites which can be used for biostratigraphy.

With vertebrates, however, its very important to leave some material in the field and often a bad idea to collect every scrap during surface collection. As a skeleton or bone bed begins to weather out, it produces an awful lot of bone fragments that we call “float trails”. If I find a float trail and chase it up hill, but can not find where the source layer is, I try to leave the trail untouched, except for a few diagnostic pieces I can use to help ID the specimen or name the site. Further erosion of the site in the future may eventually reveal where the specimen is coming from, so best to leave the rest of the scraps in place. This makes it easier to relocate the spot and try to find the source again. At other sites that are clearly scientifically important, I do try to collect as much as possible, because every microfossil/fragment might be a clue to what is going on and leaving it out to weather away would be a waste. The fragments that do not have much value after evaluation, can then be given away to kids and guests to help get them interested in the science. So, it depends on the site and type of fossils you are working on.

In the case of invertebrates from sites that are extensive, its best to be very selective. Better to have three nice trilobites or shark teeth then a bucket of subpar ones. Just my opinion. Good luck!