catalog numbers

Alan Harvey aharvey at AMNH.ORG
Thu Jan 12 15:30:30 CST 1995

I have a question regarding the renumbering of catalogued specimens in
natural history collections.  In the Department of Invertebrates at the
American Museum of Natural History, each phylum of 'invertebrates'
currently has its own independent set of catalog numbers.  Thus, for
example, there are over 30 very different specimen lots with the catalog
number "AMNH 1" in our department. There are also 30+ separate database
files, one per phylum, which creates various problems; for example, when
someone makes an improvement to the structure of the database, the changes
need to be made for 30+ files.  So far this hasn't happened, so the files
do not all share the same structure!

One possibility that I've been considering is to simply put all of our
Recent collections on a single numbering system.  Since ~270K of our 308K
catalogued lots are molluscs, this project would require the renumbering of
38K lots in some 30 other phyla.  I see possible (but addressable) problems
associated with adding yet another label to alcoholic specimens and with
referencing previous literature that cites the old numbers.  What thoughts
do folks out there have on the wisdom of renumbering specimens?  Are there
advantages to separate numbering systems, or separate database files,
within a single department?

Thanks in advance.

Alan Harvey


Alan W. Harvey (aharvey at
Curator of Invertebrates
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5638

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