SIDEBAR 4-8 Smithsonian’s Research and Collections Information System

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is creating a Research and Collections Information System that approaches an informatics-based system. The intention is to accomplish three main goals: allow collections management to better track the disposition of specimens acquired, loaned, borrowed, or disposed of, and their location; enable online access to all digital specimen data for the benefit of museum research, collections, and public programs staff, scientists, and the general public worldwide; and to facilitate participation in national and international informatics initiatives. With a suite of software applications, which are used internationally, the staff has begun to implement the systems in a number of science departments. The software was chosen for its stability, ability to scale, flexibility for diverse NMNH disciplines, interoperability with other systems via conformance to international standards, and ability to customize. An estimated 40 million to 50 million records will adequately represent NMNH specimens at a cost of $55 million to $75 million over the next few years. Currently, funds for data entry are limited, so Smithsonian staff are exploring options for obtaining the needed amount (Ross Simons, Smithsonian Institution, personal communication, 2002).

SOURCE: Input during committee site visit to the Smithsonian Institution, April 2001.

management and use of geoscience data and collections. The existence of such catalogs generates multiple benefits—from enhanced use of the collections, to time and money users save in finding material, to improved ability to plan for financial and staffing needs for the collections. The current extent of cataloging in the United States is limited, however, and is the single greatest inhibitor of effective geoscience data and collections use. The backlog of cataloging in many institutions constitutes a significant burden in itself, and overloaded staff would benefit from digital submission of information about newly acquired geoscience data and collections.



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