Harvard Museum of Natural History

July 5th -6th

Ahh!! SO cool! This week was my first time riding trains on my own! And, where was I headed? Even Better:  TO HARVARD! I’ve always wanted to visit, and this week I am working with some of the wonderful people at the Harvard Museum of Natural History! (If you haven’t had a chance to go yet, you should!).  I spent the majority of my time working in the Invertebrate Zoology collections department, where they perform curatorial and taxonomic work. Harvard’s Invertebrate Zoology folks host one of the world’s premier collections, with some specimens dating back over 200 years. And, those specimens include many of the original holotypes! A holotype is the specimen that a species was described from..so, in layman’s terms, the critter that was discovered and described as the first of a “new species.”  Their collection is fantastic!

All of the white packages are drawers from a collection of shells that was donated to the museum.

While I was there I helped them do a lot of different jobs. One was to open and sort through a new collection of shells that was donated by a family a few weeks ago. The husband had spent his entire life traveling and collecting these shells. When he passed his family finished numbering and labeling and identifying the shells, then they wrapped them all up and donated them to the museum. None of us had ever seen the shells before, so it was a really exciting process. Unwrapping each drawer was like opening a present! And there were a TON of drawers.

Drawer full of olive shells from the collection

The collection contained over 5,000 lots. A lot is a group of  the same species that was obtained in the same place at the same time. So, for example, if you went diving and collected 3 clams and 2 snails, the 3 clams are one lot, and the 2snails are another. There can be ANY number of specimens in a lot. So, basically, this shell collection is absolutely enormous, and extremely impressive. It even contained a few species that Harvard didn’t have yet! None of us could believe how dedicated this man and his family were to the collection. We all felt pretty special getting to see and sort through it. I can’t wait till it goes on display in the future!