As we continue through the heat of the summer, the Cable Natural History Museum welcomes many visitors and program attendees. It has become rare to make it between my office and the front lobby without being stopped by someone curious about some aspect of our collections. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to interact with visitors, and welcome their odd, thought-provoking, or even common questions. In light this, I have assembled some answers to the top five questions I have been asked by visitors young and old, local and from afar.
How many specimens are there?
What is a Curator?
In a broad sense, a curator acts as the custodian of a collection. Curators of museum collections interpret material for visitors--they familiarize themselves with all objects in a collection and strive to learn each object's context within our world. Curators seek to create meaningful experiences for the public as they interact with our many, wonderful specimens. At the Cable Natural History Museum, the Curator is involved in all aspects of our collections: accessioning and cataloging objects, maintaining their records in our databases, preserving and monitoring objects in their environment, and interpreting our collection for the public.
Why can't I touch the...?
The urge to touch is natural. It helps us to sense the object’s physical qualities, giving us more information in that interaction. Unfortunately, touch can also hurt our specimens. Small amounts of oils and/or dirt on our hands can build up on the surfaces of objects we touch, over time leading to their degradation. Since museums house valuable objects, we often place those beloved "No Touching" signs all around our displays to encourage visitors to help us in our preservation efforts. We certainly appreciate whenever visitors can resist that impulse!
Why can't I go into the collections storage room?
All specimens not currently on display remain housed in a storage room, where visitors may still look through the room's windowed doors at a number of taxidermy mounts. We require that only authorized personnel enter that storage room. Collections are stored there in an environment that has stable temperature and relative humidity levels, and the room needs to stay closed off as much as possible to ensure proper preservation.
|Visible from outside the collection storage room|
are many taxidermy mounts of mammals and birds.
How many specimens are there?
Our current collection includes over 3,500 specimens, with numbers regularly fluctuating. The largest group consists of plants, which account for over 41% of entire collections. Other objects in our collection include: insects, invertebrates, fish, reptiles, amphibians, bird nests, rocks and minerals, skulls and pelts, fungi, lichens, man-made artifacts, artwork, manuscripts, and historical photographs.
...And the question most frequently asked during our field trips:
Why did you have to kill all these animals?
We didn't! Understandably so, the thought of being surrounded by so many dead animals in a museum is a bit morbid. Our collection includes objects acquired from contributions by the public and objects found by staff. While some animals here were indeed hunted, the Museum would not encourage anyone to go out and take the life of an organism simply for display purposes. We aim to give each object a second "life" as an educational tool for the public, and hope that those experiences will inspire wonder after their visit.