Abstract Submission Descriptions

GS-01 General Session Oral Presentations



Paul Mayer, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org


Submit abstracts on any of a variety of subjects about collection management, collection care, conservation, outreach, exhibits, research, and digitization. Will be presented as PowerPoint slide show.

GS-02 General Session Poster Presentations


Paul Mayer, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org

Submit abstracts on any of a variety of subjects about collection management, collection care, conservation, outreach, exhibits, research, and digitization. Will be presented as printed poster.

DC-01 DemoCamp


Paul Mayer, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org

Presentation with a live demonstration of software, database or website. Computer demonstrations are welcomed in any technologies relevant to natural history scientists, collections managers, or biodiversity information managers. Technologies demonstrated may include, among other things, collections/ transaction management software, geo-referencing web-based applications, and programs for analysis of data/ images. DemoCamp presentations should feature some of the latest developments in currently available products/ software/ applications as well as ongoing research projects and prototypes. Live demonstrations of these technologies will raise awareness of new (and improved) tools available for data acquisition, documentation, and synthesis. Demonstrations will also provide a venue for idea exchange and feedback from potential users. 

Generally, this session is not for PowerPoint presentations. Only live demonstrations of functional software or applications may be presented. Demonstrators must provide their own laptops with all necessary software installed. A projector and internet connection will be provided.

SS-01 Specimen Spotlight



Paul Mayer, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org


We are looking for short, lightning-round type talks on one special specimen in your collection. Something that has an amazing story to tell. Why that specimen is your favorite or is critical to science or education. Why does it matter? Why is it important? What makes it important? What work have you done on it? This is a new Idea so please be creative and if you have idea try it and please feel free to email me any questions you might have.


Please consider giving one of these presentations and a regular abstract. If you have never given an abstract or this is your first SPNHC meeting please consider giving a specimen short a great way to introduce yourself to SPNHC.

Talks will be limited to 5 minutes and just 1 slide. The audio will be recorded and broadcast to the Field Museum's Science Hub so the general public can be included in our meeting and learn about SPNHC and the importance of collections.

SY-01 Symposium: Loans For Exhibition: They Are Different, So How Can We Handle The Process To Maximize Benefit

Sarah Loudin, Museum Registrar at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, LoudinS@si.edu
Elise LeCompte, Registrar, Florida Museum of Natural History, lecompte@flmnh.ufl.edu

Exhibition loans serve different purposes for lenders and borrowers than research loans, and the require different treatment and care based on multiple variables. The exhibition loan is a public facing use of your own collection in an offsite location. The loan is working for your museum, but it is out of your control. How do you mitigate risk in this situation and ensure your collection material will be handled as you require, returned in the same condition, and serve the function your museum desires? Preparing an exhibition loan appropriately by assessing risk and ensuring accountability at each step of the process, ensures your material works hard for you and your museum to positive effect.


This symposium will break out the main points of action related to working with exhibition loans – from building the relationship with a prospective borrower to the return of material to the home institution For both the lender and the borrower, we will discuss expectations, the process, identify common challenges and their solutions, as well as how to identify museum policy for incoming and outgoing loans. The speakers will share examples of guidance documents developed for their institutions, including workflows and checklists. Time for discussion and exchange of ideas and the experiences of audience participant's will also be built into the schedule.

SY-02 Licensing And Rights Around Collections Data And Media


Sharon Grant, Janeen Jones and Kate Webbink, The Field Museum, kwebbink@fieldmuseum.org


The talks in this series will address questions about how to appropriately copyright and/or license collections data and media, and issues related to open access, sensitive data, and new types of data and media that come out of non-stop technological innovation.

SY-03 Interconnectedness Of Data


Sharon Grant, Janeen Jones and Kate Webbink, The Field Museum, kwebbink@fieldmuseum.org


The talks/demos in this series will be about the importance of interconnectedness of collections, and how data can inform connections and uncover relationships.

SY-04 Crowdsourcing Digitization: Partnerships, Platforms, And The Worldwide Engagement For Digitizing Biocollections (Wedigbio) Event

Organizer: Matt von Konrat, The Field Museum, mkonrat@fieldmuseum.org


The world's herbaria and other natural history collections house specimens critical to science and society. In recent years, these collections have begun accelerating the pace of digital data creation for specimen information, and crowdsourcing and citizen science have emerged as highly successful innovations that also increase public science literacy and research sustainability. This symposium brings together leaders from crowdsourcing platforms used by herbaria to discuss past successes, best practices, and future innovations, as well as organizers of the annual Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio) Event and community science activities at the United State’s National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (iDigBio) to discuss models for global and local partnerships.


New developments and partnerships connecting natural history collections with education, including k-12 and college and university participation will also be presented. The inaugural 2015 WeDigBio event brought together thousands of volunteers from >100 countries to transcribe >50,000 specimen labels over four days, and organizers of that event would like to recruit new herbaria and other natural history collections to participate from around the world. One of many case studies includes Field Museum, where in 2018 alone, more than 180 community scientists joined in person, with 444-plus taking part remotely using online platforms. The volunteers tackled 16,247 objects or digital records, from processing moss specimens, transcribing data about mice from the Marshall Islands, to georeferencing insect records.

SY-05 Managing And Digitizing Large Collections



Paul Mayer, Jochen Gerber, Daniel Le, Dan Young, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org


Large natural history collections, such as insect, mollusk, fossil invertebrate, and herbarium collections, with hundreds of thousands to millions of specimens, each present their own set of challenges in regard to collection management issues and digitization projects. We hope to explore these issues and present ideas, solutions, and practical methods for working with and digitizing large collections.

SY-06 Collecting Measures Of Success


Deborah Paul, IDigBio, Florida State University, dpaul@fsu.edu

Shelley James, National Herbarium of New South Wales, Sydney Australia, shelley.james@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

David P Shorthouse, Assistant Collections Information Manager, Canadian Museum of Nature dshorthouse@nature.ca​


Biocollections and collections data facilitate many important activities including research, curation, education, outreach, and policy-development. While the value of collection objects and related data seems obvious for those using them, it is often difficult to gather metrics needed to convey and communicate collections-related activities and their importance. Tracking and reporting on the myriad of activities going on in collections is time-consuming and often not coordinated or automated. Comparing metrics across departments and across institutions offers valuable insights but is not easy to do with current infrastructure, standards, or policy. To do this, consistency on what to count and report is increasingly important both within and across institutions.


Whether a curator, manager of collections or data, researcher or technician, natural history collections staff are pressured to provide quantitative and qualitative assessments of the value and importance of the specimens along with the associated data that is generated, improved, and shared. In addition, individuals and institutions have a need to measure and attribute often unrecognized collections activities, from the identification of a specimen, georeferencing of a collection event, to the number of specimens gathered by a collector and used in downstream research. Even social media comes under the metric spotlight. The type of metric needed for reporting is audience dependent, and can range from directors and administrators, funding agencies, to managers and individuals monitoring career progress. Delivery of metrics by aggregators of biodiversity data requires careful analysis and interpretation. Choosing appropriate, consistent and meaningful metrics, efficiently harvesting values, and being able to visualize success (or issues) in appropriate ways, is challenging and often changing with technological advancements and public perceptions. In this symposium, speakers will share stories and strategies, of metrics readily available, in development, and only just dreamt about. We also plan to encourage those attending to share their metrics stories.

SY-07 Interns And Young Professional Showcase (Poster Session)



Paul Mayer, Beth Crownover, Lesley de Souza, The Field Museum, pmayer@fieldmuseum.org


This session is designed for students (high school and undergrad), and people new to museum collections. Have you participated in a museum or collection internship or volunteer program? We encourage you to submit talks and posters presentations about your experience and collection projects. All presentations will be posters.

SY-08 Making The Case For Anthropology Collections



Madeleine Strait, The Field Museum, mstrait@fieldmuseum.org


Due to anthropology’s dominance in the field of natural history throughout the late and early 20'" centuries, most museums are currently in possession of vast collections of anthropological material, which can often be found both within traditional anthropological departments and outside of them. Anthropology's history as a field of social science has, in recent decades, precluded much of the study of these individuals and objects due to inadequate recording, poor preservation, and personal reticence to reengage with the colonial era and the concomitant colonial policies that brought these individuals and objects into institutions in the first place. This session's goal is twofold: first, to address the issues that museum staff from every field face when storing, curating, and researching anthropological collections; and second, to make the case for ethical collaborative research within anthropological collections.


In the first part of this session, presenters will examine and discuss the proper methods of storage and curation of human remains and sensitive objects, as well as the way in which these issues exist today in other departments within museums. In the second part of the session, presenters will discuss the types of research made possible with these collections and the ways in which this research can be and has been done ethically, collaboratively, and conscientiously. The overall goal of this session is to demonstrate the many values of anthropological collections and to further establish a set of research practices that are ethically sound and scientifically valuable.

SY-09 Collections Assessment For Natural History Collections: From Local To Global



Carol R. Butler, NMNH Smithsonian Institution, butlercr@si.edu
Clare Valentine, NHM, London, c.valentine@nhm.ac.uk
Steven van der Mije, Naturalis, Leiden, steven.vandermije@naturalis.nl
Christiane Quaisser, MfN, Berlin, Christiane.Quaisser@mfn.berIin


The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (SI-NMNH) developed a data-drive methodology to assess all of its collections in order to answer two essential questions: are the collections mission-appropriate and are they ready to use? This collections assessment method and its associated management systems have been in use on a regular basis for more than 10 years. The Collections Assessment rates all Museum collections on criteria related to condition, informational status, and significance, yielding standardized scores that can be viewed graphically to support rapid assessment, discussion and project prioritization. This methodology has improved cross-museum planning, grant proposal development, and has increased the efficiency of resource allocation and collaboration within the SI-NMNH. Elements of the methodology have been adopted by other Smithsonian art, history and culture museums, as well as natural history museums in London, Berlin and



In this symposium SI-NMNH will introduce the methodology and the essential collections grouping concepts that underlie it, and will describe the circumstances that led to the methodology's development, its impact upon work, and its annual uses for collections management. Collections leaders from the Natural History Museum (London), Museum fur Naturkunde (Berlin), and Naturalis (Leiden) will discuss their experiences piloting and using the methodology, including implementation challenges, staff resource requirements, institutional benefits, and modifications they have made to meet the local circumstances and needs at their respective museums. The symposium closes with a discussion among the presenters on the methodology's potential for application across multiple institutions and the cross-institutional collaborations such implementations can support.

SY-10 Storage Techniques For Art, Science, And History Collections (STASH)

Preventive Conservation And Storage: STASH Flash II



Laura Abraczinskas, Michigan State University Museum, abraczi1@msu.edu

Rachael Arenstein, A.M. Art Conservation, LLC , rachael@amartconservation.com

Lisa Goldberg, The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC), lgoldberg@stny.rr.com

Rebecca A. Kaczkowski, Museum Conservation Institute Smithsonian Institution, KaczkowskiR@si.edu

Rebecca Newberry, Science Museum of Minnesota,  rnewberry@smm.org

The conference theme addresses the crux of natural history collections - why collections matter. Collection use is only possible when long-term storage promotes preservation and enables visibility, safe handling and access. This session will combine conversations about choosing appropriate materials for long-term collections care and discussions about best practices for storage with presentations describing innovative storage solutions.

The symposium will include an introduction to the American Institute for Conservation's (AlC) new Materials Selection and Specification Working Group (MWG), which is an initiative of AlC's Collection Care Network allied with SPNHC and other preservation organizations and institutions. This part of the half-day program  will include talks that center on the history of pollutants in museums and the importance of materials choice in collection care practice. Included v|^ill be a discussion of how to best transmit this knowledge for staff new to collections care, and how that might impact decisions about the future of the SPNHC Resources Display Unit (RDU). The session will then focus on best practices for collections housing, using the STASH website (www.stashc.com) to illustrate the connection between materials choices and examples of best practice. The second half of the program will utilize a lightning round or "Tips" format as well as guided, audience participatory discussion. We are looking for a broad range of short presentations that cover each of the following discipline:


• Zoological specimens of all types of preparation

• Botanical specimens of all types of preparation

• Geological specimens

• Vertebrate and Invertebrate Paleontological specimens (including microfossils and nannofossils)

• Paleobotany specimens (including appropriate microfossils, nannofossils, cyanobacteria, and fossil palynology materials)


We will encourage paper submissions from each of the major disciplines in an attempt to make this session as broadly applicable as possible. We are hoping for at least one contribution from each discipline.

We will call for contributions of short (5-minute) tips on the following themes:

• Storage mounts or support systems that demonstrate ingenuity and utility. These can be scenarios related to disaster preparedness, impacts of changing regulations, moving collections, new solutions to old problems, public access to collections, sustainability, use of new materials, or digitization of collections.


• Multi-function supports serving more than one purpose, such as storage, examination, travel, and/or purposes exhibition


• Innovative storage solutions for individual or collection groups that do not conform to either theme will be accepted if space allows.

SY-11 Cosmic Collections: Lets talk about Meteorites



James Holstein and Philipp Heck, The Field Museum, jholstein@fieldmuseum.org, prheck@fieldmuseum.org


Meteorites are rare, beautiful and scientifically valuable objects that require great care to maintain their integrity. They have the ability to inform and inspire awe through their sheer aesthetics and scientific findings. The information contained in these time capsules of our early solar system teaches us about our origins. Caring for and making these objects available to science is an enormous responsibility.


Session will discuss topics related to meteorite collections and will include issues surrounding the care, handling and storage of these precious collections. Topics will also include loans, outreach and any other subjects related to meteorite collections.

SY-12 Ethical Data Sharing for Endangered Species and Other Sensitive Natural History Collections



Matthew Pace and Barbara Thiers, New York Botanical Garden, mpace@nybg.org


a symposium focused on ethical data sharing for endangered species and other sensitive natural history collections. We are interested in having this symposium be as widely applicable to the natural history collection community as possible, and will involve non-collections people too (hobbyists, government officials, etc.). The end goal of this symposium would be a community guidelines white paper with suggestions on how to ethically share these data.

Talks will be either 20 or 40 minutes long.

SY-013 SCNet Symposium: No Collection Left Behind: Research Contributions of Small Collections


SCNet, Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), iDigBio, NSCA, and Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education Network (BLUE) are co-sponsoring the 5th annual SCNet Symposium at SPNHC 2019. The goal of this symposium is to highlight data-driven examples of the contributions small biological collections make to the national digitization initiative and resultant biodiversity research. This symposium will discuss small collections in the context of their unique and valuable contributions to digitization, aggregated data and metadata, and downstream research.


Small natural history collections have the potential to significantly expand our knowledge of species diversity and landscape-level biogeography. Every small collection with properly curated specimens is a unique source of valuable biodiversity data for research. Small research collections archive unduplicated specimens that represent intensive regional sampling, unrepresented temporal sampling, and a focused sampling of community composition typically not represented in large collections. Some small collections are associated with biological research stations and can be our best resource for information on diversity in local biological "hotspots" through time. In addition, small collections can be a hidden source of specimens that represent the expertise of associated curators and researchers.


Defining “small research collections” is more than just a matter of scale but rather a cohort of attributes that goes beyond size. These regional natural history collections often have an ecological, taxonomic and geographic focus. Specimens from small collections are often not included in literature review of the regional flora and fauna, so the diversity they archive is not represented in the collective records of species inventories, field guides, regional flora and monographic studies. Curatorial responsibilities may not be part of the "official" job descriptions of small collections staff, so work done for the collection is not linked to reappointment tenure, or promotion. As a result, visibility of these collections may be limited.


We are linking this symposium to a working group focused on documenting the contributions of small collections to biodiversity science, and plan to generate a manuscript based on the collective contributions of the speakers. While we hope to populate several of the speaker slots with invited speakers, we see an opportunity to have unsolicited talks that provide data supporting the value of small collections and align with the theme. This symposium will also include a period for discussion where we will solicit feedback from the community on best practices for engaging small collections in research and facilitating digitization.

SY-014 Best Practices in Destructive Sampling: Methods for Limiting Specimen Information Loss While Maximizing Research Potential


Thomas Cullen, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Field Museum, tcullen@fieldmuseum.org

Erika Anderson, Curator of Mineralogy, Canadian Museum of Nature

In recent years destructive sampling techniques have become increasingly common in scientific research. These techniques range from the histological sectioning of bones and teeth, isotopic and genetic/molecular analyses of multiple types of animal and plant tissues, elemental and other analyses of minerals, and many others. Despite the obvious benefits these methods offer for research, they are by their nature destructive, and thus their use often runs counter to preservational and curatorial considerations for natural history collection objects. It is therefore imperative that policies and practices be developed to minimize information loss and object destruction while still allowing for, and perhaps maximizing, research data generation. The purpose of this symposium is to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of new techniques for conserving collections object data in multiple forms to minimize data loss during destructive sampling, and performing destructive sampling in more efficient ways to reduce the amount of sample materials required for analysis. How these practices and policies vary between natural history science disciplines will also be discussed, in the hopes that general ‘best practices’ can be developed to facilitate greater efficiency and data conservation/generation across all sub-disciplines/collections.

The symposium would take the form of a series of oral presentations, wherein researchers and collections personnel could discuss various forms of destructive sampling that exist within their sub-disciplines/collections. The goal of each presentation would be to describe what policies and criteria exist in their research/collections for assessing if a specimen may be destructively sampled, what methods they use to preserve specimen data prior to destructive sampling, what methods they use to perform the destructive sampling itself, what data are obtained from sampling, how the data from the destructive sampling are catalogued/preserved, and what steps are taken to restore or mitigate additional specimen data loss. Each presenter would not be required to discuss all of these aspects, though it would be preferable if as many as possible could be included. 

SY-015 Broadening Participation of Students in Biodiversity Collections through a Network of Student Clubs


Kari Harris, Instructor Biological Sciences, Club Coordinator, College of Science and Mathematics, Arkansas State University, kharris@astate.edu

The Natural History Collections Club Network (NHCCN) represents a growing number of student organizations at universities across the United States. These clubs are focused on generating and maintaining student interest in biodiversity collections by providing them access to curators and mentors and to other students with similar interests. This symposium showcases projects being done by students in natural history clubs and similar organizations.

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