How do you organise 100,000 fossils?

Well it’s a good question and there are lots of different answers. Our aim as a museum is to get the collection used as much as possible, so we try and organise it in a way that helps us do this.

Most palaeontology collections are organised using the age of fossils (putting all the Jurassic age fossils together etc.) or grouping fossils that are the same species (putting all the ammonites together etc.). Sometimes parts of the collection are grouped by who collected them.

A drawer of mixed fossils

Much of our collection in Manchester was put together as a research collection, so it has been grouped by species. This makes it easier for researchers who, for example want to look at examples of a particular species of trilobite.

The problem is, that this doesn’t work so well when with other enquiries such as if someone wants to look at all our fossils from Castleton for example. In our current system, the fossils from Castleton are split up in to the different fossil groups. Part of the way round these problems is to make new groupings of fossils using our catalog system e.g. with the Solnhofen Limestone fossils.

Putting the fossil away with the other ones like it

Recently, I’ve been putting a group of fossils in the correct palace in the collection.


3 Responses

  1. Ah, I used to work at the Academy of Natural Sciences and this brings back memories. Sadly, my own collection has never been very organized.

    • I don’t think you need to feel too bad Scott! It has taken years and years and the work of several curators and volunteers, to get it like this.

  2. My reply is a long time coming, but thank you, David. I was motivated to get all sorts of interesting new containers and organizers for my fossils and now I am only waiting for winter to set in. It is a good winter project for dark chilly nights.

    If you are interesting in sharing some of your favorite personal finds or treasures from the museum, we would love to help you show them off.
    Your blog and/or museum will of course be credited. We would love to have more museum participate and help to get people excited about fossils. Please let me know.

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