herbarium (& other) database software

alexandra m snyder amsnyder at UNM.EDU
Fri May 30 16:00:45 CDT 1997

Biota (Sinauer Publ.)developed by Robert Colwell should provide, for most
collections, not only common museum routines such as label and report
production, but also a structure suitable for survey data.  As a
collections manager of fishes and herps, my time is limited due to
such pressing duties as specimen accession & preparation, collections
maintenance, loans and database management. Therefore, I have little time
to devote to inventing/re-inventing the wheel in terms of program development.
Normally, I am in the position to hire graduate students to develop and
fine-tune programs I have used for cataloguing, specimen labels,
invoicing, and so on, providing them with field structures, flow charts and
a lot of coffee.  To date, Paradox for Windows (ObjectPal) for our fish
collection has been a success, but it took 6 months to develop and a year to
"get it right" (or to the point where the collections manager was happy with
it).  For many of us, there is a steep learning curve factor when working with
object technology and that type of programming.

We are in the process of transferring the herp records from an Excel
spreadsheet to Colwell's Biota, a 4th Dimension program now available for Macs.
It comes with excellent documentation, menus for data entry and extraction
that "make sense" and are all-encompassing (plant-insect interaction
fields for example) and many options for attaching extra files to records
or a structure that is very useful for survey data (we are a small
collection, rapidly growing because we are in the business of archiving
voucher collections for various government projects).

For those who are not already familiar with the program, it was first
developed for the La Selva arthropod survey in Costa Rica. Check out the
TAXACOM archives for more details.  PC version is still being beta
tested, but hopefully will be available next year.

Again, people who cannot spend a lot of time learning a program and
"doing" software development (especially in small, busy museums) but yet
want a "state of the art" program for their collections would do well
to look into such programs as Biota in 4D.


Alexandra M. Snyder
Museum of Southwestern Biology, Fishes & Herpetology
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131 USA

amsnyder at unm.edu
PH 505.277.6005/5130
FAX 505.277.0304

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