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NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUMS. WHAT IS A NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM LIBRARY?. Museum based on science (not art) Multidisciplinary. PURPOSES. Scientific & scholarly research Specimen collections “Edutainment” -Steven Asma. HISTORY. First appeared about 300 years ago

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What is a natural history museum library
WHAT IS A NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM LIBRARY?

  • Museum based on science (not art)

  • Multidisciplinary


Purposes
PURPOSES

  • Scientific & scholarly research

  • Specimen collections

  • “Edutainment” -Steven Asma


History
HISTORY

  • First appeared about 300 years ago

  • Precursor: Cabinet of Curiosities

  • Royal Society (London) – collects Cabinets of Curiosities for scientific study (late 1600s)

  • VIP: Linnaeus – published “Systema naturae” in mid 1700s – taxonomic classification system


History1
HISTORY

  • VIP – Charles Darwin – published “Origin of species” in 1859 – focus of natural history museums changes inventory of nature to proponents of Darwin’s theory of evolution

  • After Darwin’s theory accepted – focus turns to exotica (i.e. dinosaurs)

  • Today – focus shifting again, from exotica to biodiversity & conservation


Disciplines represented

Anatomy

Astronomy

Anthropology

Archaeology

Botany

Entomology

Geology

Oceanography

Paleontology

Zoology

DISCIPLINES REPRESENTED


Geographic distribution
GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION

  • Widely distributed across the country

  • Larger museum primarily in large cities

  • Smaller museums may be found almost everywhere


Diversity
DIVERSITY

  • Great variety

  • Arboretums, planetariums, and zoos can be classified as natural history museums

  • Many small, specialized collections


Specialized collections
SPECIALIZED COLLECTIONS

  • American International Rattlesnake Museum (Albuquerque, NM)

  • Citrus Variety Collection (University of California)

  • Culture Collection of Microorganisms from Extreme Environments (University of Oregon)

  • Mycological Herbarium (Washington State University


Major categories
MAJOR CATEGORIES

  • Public Museums of Natural History

  • University Museums of Natural History


Public natural history museum libraries
PUBLIC NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM LIBRARIES

  • 100 – 500 thousand volumes, 5 – 15 staff

  • up to 500 journal subscriptions

  • Reference, circulation, ILL (usually limited to museum curators)

  • Users: curators, researchers, the general public (with limitations)


Prominent public natural history museums
PROMINENT PUBLIC NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUMS

  • American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY) – largest in US

  • Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL)

  • National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian (Washington, DC)

  • Museum of Natural History (London) – huge - one million volumes!


Prominent university natural history libraries
PROMINENT UNIVERSITY NATURAL HISTORY LIBRARIES

  • Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge, MA) – Ernst Mayr Library

  • Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University (New Haven, CT) – many small specialty libraries within Kline Science Library

  • State Universities – many have natural history museum libraries – but not URI


Rhode island natural history museums
RHODE ISLAND NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUMS

  • Museum of Natural History and Planetarium (Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI) – no professional librarian – small collection cared for by curator


Libraries
LIBRARIES

  • 130 natural history museum libraries in the US

  • Primary users: curators & outside researchers

  • Usually open to public with limitations


Collections
COLLECTIONS

  • Works on various disciplines, history of science, and museology

  • Online journals (hundreds!)

  • Archives on museum history (expeditions, museum research)

  • Specimen collection databases [Field Museum]

  • Maps, taxonomic drawings [London Natural History Museum]


Sla affiliations
SLA AFFILIATIONS

  • Natural History Caucus

  • Multiple divisions: Museum, Arts & Humanities; Environment & Resource Management; Biological Sciences

  • Promotes professional development, cooperation, and resource sharing among it members.


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