Accession/accession number

the formal process used to accept legal responsibility as a repository for, and to record a specimen as part of, the Museum’s collections. It involves the creation of an immediate, brief, and permanent record, utilizing a control number or unique identifier for objects added to the collection from the same source at the same time, and for which the institution accepts custody, right, or title.

Acid-prepared Specimens

Specimens that have been treated with dilute acid (formic or acetic) to dissolve limestone matrix while leaving bones intact.

Acryloid B-72

Ethyl methacrylate copolymer used as an adhesive, consolidant and an underlayer or coating for specimen labeling.  Also known as Paraloid B-72.


Substances, either organic or inorganic, that are capable of binding other substances together by surface attachment. Can be of natural or synthetic origin.

Agents of deterioration

Those forces that contribute to the ultimate destruction of museum objects over a period of time; for natural history specimens, generally considered to be intrinsic factors, physical forces, fire, water, inappropriate relative humidity, in appropriate temperature, pests, criminals, contaminants, and radiation (including light). (Cato p.18)


Lacking in oxygen; usually applied to environments in which there are very low levels of dissolved or atmospheric oxygen.


An estimate of the monetary value of a particular piece of property for the purposes of income tax, insurance, etc. (Alberta Museums Association, p.335).


A term loosely used to imply that products, particularly paper products, are suitable for preservation purposes. (Rose and de Torres, 1992, p.346)


An unprepared piece of matrix with embedded fossils resulting from excavation.


The curatorial process of classifying and documenting objects usually in complete descriptive detail resulting in extensive information in the form of cards, files, publications, and automated data. (Porter, 1985, p.12)

Collections management

The development, processing, documentation, organization, maintenance and use of collections.


The application of science to the examination and treatment of museum objects [and specimens] and to the study of the environments in which they are placed.  This involves activities such as preventive conservation, examination, documentation, treatment, research and education. (SPNHC, 1994)


Materials that can impregnate and strengthen an object by binding it together (Cato et al, 2003).


The process whereby specimens or artifacts are identified and organized according to discipline-specific recommendations using the most recently available scientific literature and expertise; a primary objective of this process is to verify or add to the existing documentation for these objects, and to add to knowledge.  (SPNHC, 1994)


Environmental monitors that operate independently or can be wired directly into a main computer to provide information that is accessible at any time (Cato et al, 2003). In collections, dataloggers are usually employed to record fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity.


The formal removal of specimens from the permanent collection, with transfer of title where appropriate.(See Yale Peabody Museum Definitions and Procedures)

Destructive sampling

Any process that physically alters or consumes all or part of a specimen. (See Yale Peabody Museum Definitions and Procedures)


A person or organization which has given objects or specimens to a museum

Due Diligence

A legal term, applying to the thorough performance of an investigation or other act. In collection terms, it is most commonly applied to the investigation of the provenance of a specimen prior to accessioning.


Any restriction that affects the ability to accession or use a specimen


The trade name for a polyethylene foam.  This material is ideally suited as a component material in products requiring a shock absorption, vibration dampening, and as a material for cushioning.


In a paleontological context, this means the exposure, processing, and documentation of fossil remains.

Extension number

A number used to identify a particular component of a fossil specimen. Extension numbers are applied sequentially; when written, they are usually preceded by the catalog number, which is separated from the extension number by a period (e.g. 12345.001, 12345.002, etc).


In a record or database, a specified area for a particular unit of data.

Field jacket

A protective casing, usually made up from layers of bandages or other absorbent fabric that have been impregnated with plaster. These are wrapped around a specimen in the field and allowed to set prior to packing and transportation.


Organisms or fragments, impressions, or traces of organisms preserved in rock (Cato et al, 2003); they are formerly organic specimens that have gone through a process of complete or partial replacement of organic material by inorganic material.


Geographic Information System – the computer hardware and software that is used for acquiring, processing, storing, and managing spatial data such as specimen localities.

Holding cabinet

A cabinet used for the temporary storage of specimens that are undergoing research or curation.


The single specimen or fragment on which a species is based (see type specimen)


An instrument that measures and records temperature and relative humidity changes (Cato et al, 2003).


A Latin term meaning in the natural or original position or place.


Not reactive with other substances; this may mean that the substance in question is without chemical or other properties, or merely that it does not react with any of the substances present in a particular context.

Integrated Pest Management

Bringing together two or more methods of control into a harmonized system designed to maintain pests at levels below those at which they cause harm – a system that must rest on firm ecological principles and approaches. (Romoser, W.S. 1973. The Science of Entomology.  Macmillan Publishers, New York)


The process of preparing and affixing labels to accompany objects or specimens. (Cato, p.208)


A syntype chosen subsequent to the original description to take the place occupied in other cases by the holotype (see type specimen)


The macroscopic (i.e. hand-sample or outcrop-scale) description of rocks.


The specific place of origin of a specimen, including both geographic and geological parameters.


The environment of a large area, such as a building or storage room.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

Available from manufacturers these documents include data on volatility, flammability, toxicity and other safety-related information concerning a specific chemical or material. (Rose, 1995. p.448)


In a paleontological context, this is the rock or sediment in which a fossil is embedded.


Climate of a small area; e.g. an exhibit case, a storage unit. (Alberta Museums Association, 1990, p.335)


The rock or sediment in which a fossil is embedded. (Duckworth, 1993. p.140)


The branch of biology dealing with the form and structure of plants and animals. (2) the form and structure of an organism considered as a whole. (Random House College Dictionary. 1975. Random House, Inc., New York, p.1568.)


Cast polyester film manufactured by Dupont


A specimen designated at a later date as a type of a species because of the loss of the original type material (see type specimen)


Release of volatile materials (including organic acids) from woods, paints, polymers, etc.


Relating to the conditions present in ancient environments (e.g. climate, soil and marine chemistry, etc.).


The study of extinct organisms, including their structure, environment, evolution, and distribution, as revealed by their fossil remains. (Duckworth,, 1993, p.140)
Paraloid B-72 – see Acryloid B-72


The study of the evolutionary relationships between different groups of organisms.


A broad statement outlining the intent of the institution with respect to one or more of its objectives.  A governing principle; a framework for carrying out work; a definition of what is to be done. (Alberta Museums Association, 1990, p.335)


A polymer of ethylene, having the repeat unit –(CH2CH2)–, prepared as sheet, foam, rod, block and hot-melt adhesive. (Rose and de Torres, 1992)


The process by which the stony matrix in which the bones are embedded is removed — to make the information hidden within available for scientific research or for public display. (Yale Peabody Museum Definitions and Procedures internal document)


Person who prepares the specimen for study or exhibit, e.g. by making a study skin or removing a fossil from matrix. (Cato, et. al. p.281).


Actions taken to retard or prevent deterioration or damage to collections materials by control of their environment and/or treatment of their structure in order to maintain them as nearly as possible in an unchanging state. (Duckworth, 1993, p.140)


A statement of how a governing principle will be implemented; rules and regulations applied to a framework; a definition of how a policy is to be carried out. (Alberta Museums Association, 1990, p.335)


A legal term meaning that a party exercises private ownership, control, or use over an item of property, e.g. a software manufacturer owning the rights to modify and develop a piece of database software.


Information that defines a specimen in terms of the specific geographic point of origin as well is the background and history of ownership.  Also known as provenience. (Cato, p.286)

Pyrite Disease

An informal term applied to the effects of pyrite oxidation on specimens (Cato et al, 2003).


In public land surveys, a north-to-south row of townships, identified and numbered as east or west from the survey’s principle meridian (Cato et al, 2003).

Relative Humidity

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, of the amount of water vapor present in the atmosphere to the amount required to saturate it at the same temperature.  Relative humidity varies with temperature. (Alberta Museums Association, 1990, p.335)

Relational database

A database that stores repeated information in separate, but linked tables whose relationships are defined in a data model. Object records (e.g. for specimens) are assembled from these tables by the database program, avoiding the need to store large quantities of duplicate data.


An individual responsible for the development and enforcement of policies and procedures relating to the acquisition, management, and disposal of collections.


See Relative Humidity


The act or process of selecting and removing some part of an object or speciment for testing, analysis or other use. (Duckworth, 1993, p.140)

Silica Gel

A granular substance that can absorb or emit moisture and which is used to control relative humidity when packing and storing humidity-sensitive specimens.


The process by which a specimen deforms under its own weight as a result of inadequate support.


An orgnanism, part of an organism, or naturally-occurring material that has been collected, that may or may not have undergone some prepration treatment.  It may exist in its original state, in an altered form, or some combination of the two.  A specimen may be comprised of one piece or many related pieces. It may be composed of one pysical or chemical component or represent a composite of materials. (SPNHC, 1994)

Specimen Lots

An accumulation of specimens collected at the same locale at a single point in time; a lot may be distinguished by, as well as belonging to, a particular taxon. This term can also be used as a unit of cataloging for taxonomic groups that are collected in large quantities. (Cato et. al., 2003, p.220)


The study of the origin, composition, distribution, and succession of rock strata. (Cato p.334)


Bones or other organic hard tissues (e.g., shells) that have been subject to sub-aerial weathering and then burial, but have not been subjected to any secondary mineralization (Collins, 1988), often preserved together with associated soft tissue structures, including skin, hair, feathers, and muscle fibers.


Any specimen of the author’s original material when no holotype was designated, or any one of a series of specimens described as co-types of equal rank (see type specimen)


Relating to the science of classifying organisms, both living and extinct, and investigating the relationships between them; the field of science concerned with taxonomy and phylogeny. Can also refer to the arrangement of a collection according to an underlying system of classification (e.g. taxonomic).


The study of organic decay and subsequent preservation.

Taxon/taxonomy (pl. taxa)

Any unit in the taxonomic classification, such as a phylum, class, order, family, genus or species. (Levin, 1988).


In public land surveys, a division of land comprising 36 sections (36 square miles) (Cato et al, 2003).

Type specimen

A type specimen is any specimen that has been designated as the name-bearer in the original published description of a taxon (Art. 73a, International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 1999).  In paleontology collections, the term “type specimen” is usually applied to holotypes (the single specimen or fragment on which a species is based), genotypes (the single specimen or fragment on which a genus is based), syntypes (any specimen of the author’s original material when no holotype was designated, or any one of a series of specimens described as co-types of equal rank), lectotypes (a syntype chosen subsequent to the original description to take the place occupied in other cases by the holotype), and neotypes (a specimen designated at a later date as a type of a species because of the loss of the original type material). Type specimens are examined when a researcher needs to determine the morphological paradigm associated with a particular name. 


A legal term, usually applied to property, meaning that the property is not subject to any creditor claims or liens. Used in the context of specimen acquisition, it means that the donor or seller has sole title to the specimen concerned and that no other parties can claim any rights of ownership.


Universal Transverse Mercator – a coordinate system for fixing locations on the Earth’s surface, based on ground distances in meters east from the center of a UTM zone and north or south of the equator.


The assigned value of an object [or specimen] based on appraisal and other significant factors. (Alberta Museums Association, p.335)