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Collection managers without collections

Posted on 18-01-2017 by Eulàlia Gassó Miracle

Since the 9th of January we, collection managers from Naturalis, cannot work in the collection anymore. The Tower, our treasure house with the scientific collections, is closed. Naturalis is rebuilding its facilities, the old building is to be overhauled and a whole new building will be added. We wait with baited breath and look with nostalgia at the tower from the windows of our temporary office building.

Collection managers are usually found in the collection: we curate, organize, record, restore, study and archive. We make the objects accessible to researchers, we process loans and we are constantly sending back and forth information. We are now orphaned from the collection. What now?

Photo: Goffe Struiksma

No worries. Although we miss the smell of stuffed animals and drawers full of insects, we all have our "to-do" lists with many tasks and wishes that usually cannot be fulfilled due to our daily work. Now we have the opportunity to pick up these "for-whenever-I-have-time" jobs to pick up. And there are quite a lot of them.

Our job is as diverse as the collection itself. This offers many possibilities. We are all specialized in something different and we have achieved different levels of skill. Some of us will brush up their knowledge, others will check the quality of the digital data from our databases while some of us do the research for which they usually have little time. Moreover, the botanical and geological collections are accessible because they are stored in other repositories. This also applies to sections of the library and archives. Managers of the zoological collections can now step in and help reduce backlogs in the Herbarium, for example.


Photo: Goffe Struiksma

We are certainly very creative. We're going to learn and gain experience through internships at other museums, such as London and Berlin. Those working with small specimens have a few drawers or boxes in our temporary building to digitize or determine this material. This is possible with shells, small wasps or butterflies. Among us are PhD students who are now working full-time on their thesis. The themes are again quite different: from the origin of diversity in sharks to the history of Naturalis itself. Besides learning, we can also teach. Soon we will share our knowledge and experience to aspiring curators in Nairobi and Jayapura. This way we create a professional and experienced team.

This compulsory pause in our normal rhythm clearly has advantages! Perhaps the most important of all is that we now can take the time to think carefully about our work. And we certainly do! What are we good at? What could be done better? Are our priorities set correctly? Where do we want to be in 2020 with the collection? We work together on a policy plan for the coming years. That takes time because we are a little ambitious: we want to make this magnificent collection better, more accessible, more useful and more beautiful. More than enough work for us! Even without the collection.


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