People who work in museum collections spend a lot of time writing numbers on specimens and entering information into catalogs. Why is this? As a collection begins to grow, it is important that both the specimens and their associated information are well organized and easily accessible.

As we discussed in the Acquisitions section, much of the scientific value of specimens is tied up in the information that is associated with them: what they are, where and when they were found, and how they ended up in the museum. Cataloging is the first step in the process of curating a collection and the action of labeling a specimen should link it to any paperwork or other data that provide information on its identity, history, or context. Historically, museum and university collections used ledger books, card catalogs, and paper files to store and track this information, but now, of course, most institutions use computer databases to manage and share information about their collections.

How specimens are physically organized in storage is also an important decision. Factors such as size of the storage room or the specimens are important but so are curatorial decisions such as whether type specimens are separated from the main collection, or whether specimens are stored with other specimens from the same geographic locality, from rocks of the same formation or age, with members of the same species, or some combination of these approaches. Whatever the solution chosen, the most important thing is that the collection should be usable. However specimens are arranged and stored, it is essential that specimens and their associated data can be quickly located.

For more on these issues see the detailed information, see:

For more information on how fossil collections, once properly stored can be used and shared with the public see the next section on Sharing.