The Age of Reptiles

The Age of Reptiles
The Age of Reptiles, a mural by Rudolph F. Zallinger. Copyright 1966, 1975, 1985, 1989 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Peabody Receives “Hidden Collections” Grant

News Release
For immediate release:  April 26, 2011
Contact:  Melanie Brigockas, 203-432-5099,

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is about to undertake a major electronic cataloguing project thanks to a $409,000 award from the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the A.W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will enable the Museum to catalogue the archives and special collections of the Museum archives and its 11 curatorial divisions using its enterprise collections management system, KE EMu, which is an important goal for scientific and historical research.
Tim White, Peabody assistant director for collections who will oversee the project, noted that a variety of collections would be affected, including such items as paintings, sculptures, photographs, field notes and maps.  “Regardless of size or scope,” White said, “they individually and collectively tell an interesting story that we believe will benefit historians, biographers and scientists through access to all these materials.”
Called the “Hidden Collections” grant, the three-year project started in January and involves the hiring of additional staff to support it. Each division will initially survey its own archives and special collections. That information will be analyzed by a four-person committee headed by White “to draft a best practice for organizing, housing, cataloguing and mobilizing information for the Internet,” he said.
Peabody staff serving on the committee with White are Catherine Sease, senior conservator, who will work with the divisions on how the material will be restored and housed; Lawrence Gall, head of computer systems, who will work in developing online catalogues as materials from divisions are processed; and Annette Van Aken, project registrar, who will supervise the two hired museum assistants, Dan Drew and Nate Utrup, working with the divisions.
The committee will also receive input from Manuscripts and Archives at Sterling Library to determine the best practice for arrangement, housing and modes of access. White said the committee will begin with two or three collections and then rotate around to the other divisions.  Another aspect to be included in the project is oral histories. “Each division has a rich history, and much of the knowledge about our collections and institutions is tied to  our senior curators and staff,” White said.
White noted that Peabody was one of 17 institutions around the nation to receive a grant from CLIR and the Mellon Foundation, adding that with grant distribution ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, the museum received one of the larger ones.
“It was appealing to CLIR and the foundation that we’ve found a way to manage the information through library and archive standards. We will use both the ‘Darwin Core’ and ‘Dublin Core’   data structures that scientists and historians will be familiar with,” White said. “When completed, historians and scientists will be able to access information over a variety of different search engines. It’s a good way to bridge the gap between scientists and historians.”