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Curating your collection
  
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Michael Shaw
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2023 11:17    Post subject: Curating your collection  

A while back, Roy Starkey initiated a discussion as part of a series of online talks hosted by the Russell Society. The title of the discussion was “What Should We Do With Our Mineral Collections?” The discussion was recorded and is available for viewing at:
https://www.mindat.org/article.php/4711/What+should+we+do+with+our+%5Bmineral%5D+collections%3F If you haven’t seen this, I would encourage you to do so.

Part of the discussion dealt with various option to dispose of your collection after you are gone or no longer able to take care of it. Those of us who are older, have probably given at least some thought to this. The part of the discussion that was most interesting to me, however, was how the collection is curated including storage, labeling, and organization. The idea here being that if someone were to come to it without any prior knowledge, would they be able to conclude that the collection had some monetary and scientific value. We have all probably heard stories of collections ending up in a dumpster, because no one recognized that it wasn’t just a bunch of worthless rocks. Browsing this site as well as Mindat, how many posts do you come across that deal with "I have this mineral specimen but I lost the label. Can anyone identify it?"

One of the things that aroused my curiosity was what Roy called the “Curatorial Readiness Level” A table depicted 10 levels ranging from a collection of unlabeled miscellaneous specimens (of least value and most likely to be dumped in the trash) to specimens that are properly labeled, organized, and protected along with a catalog containing the full specimen history accompanied by a photo of the specimen.

My earliest collecting endeavors as a young boy fell into the lowest level. Minerals were simply displayed on shelves with no labels. After all, I knew what they were and where they came from, because I collected most of them myself. Fortunately, as time passed, I recognized that this was a less than ideal situation (when I couldn’t remember which Michigan copper came from which mine) and set out to properly label each specimen. As my collection grew, I also recognized the need to develop a catalog along with an accompanying searchable database to facilitate finding a particular specimen.

While this was a formidable project, I also found it was enjoyable, handling specimens that I hadn’t seen in years. Today, each specimen has a permanent number affixed which corresponds to a printed label, a photo, and a database entry.

I look forward to hearing how others handle their collections.



Collection Curation.jpg
 Description:
Barite specimen with affixed number corresponding to my label. Specimen photo, previous labels are stored in a glassine envelope with the specimen, note card with pertinent specimen information which is also maintained in a digital database.
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James Catmur
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2023 15:28    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

I was like you in the early days with no labels, but when I was about 8 my mother (who was the daughter of the man who built the world's largest collection of printed ephemera, so knew about collecting and cataloging) insisted on labels and localities for all the fossils I found, and I still have them! When we moved to Mexico, and I switched to collecting minerals I became less systematic and that lasted for a while. I do, however, have the advantage of a 'photographic memory' so can go back in my mind and work out exactly where I collected things in the 1970s that I did not label at the time.

In my teens back in the UK I obtained a bunch of specimens I did not collect and they came with no labels, so those are still a bit of a gap in my records. I also collected in PA and recently noted that Mindat is wrong about some localities as I know exactly where I collected in the 1970s (sometimes on private land).

Collecting in Malaysia in the 1980s, I use my photographic memory to work out where I found things, that I did not label at the time.

When I moved to Spain my mother's training kicked back in, so everything got labelled, and I have recently used Inma and the FMF locality database to update the records I kept at the time.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote my own software package for the collection database, but in the end that platform ceased to exist so I moved the data onto Excel (which is not ideal). I am now clear that the only correct database is the one I hold and that some of the printed labels were wrong. I have kept records of every specimen I have sold or given away, so should you get one of my labels I will know more than the information on the label.

On each specimen, I attach its number either via sticker (but they eventually fall off) or white paint and a permanent pen. Labels and all other records are kept with the specimens, with the database holding some additional information.

I have photographic records of the collection, but not always a specific photo of every piece (so it may be a photo of the drawer with multiple specimens), thus the photos are not always helpful.



IMG_2949.JPG
 Description:
An example of the drawers with labels and information. But some labels are under the specimen.
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IMG_2949.JPG



B091, Gypsum, Fuentes del Ebro.JPG
 Mineral: Gypsum
 Locality:
Alabaster quarries, Fuentes de Ebro, Delimitación Comarcal de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
 Dimensions: 20 cm x 15cm x 15cm
 Description:
Specimen B091, self collected in 1993. Just a photo as a record of the piece
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B091, Gypsum, Fuentes del Ebro.JPG


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Michael Shaw
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2023 18:39    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

Thanks for responding James. Sounds like your collection is curated at a high level and you have adopted an approach very similar to mine. It must be wonderful to have a 'photographic memory" and be able to remember locations years later. I have vivid memories of some of the localities where I collected back in the 60s when I was new to collecting, but other localities would remain a mystery were it not for my catalog and database.
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Matt_Zukowski
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2023 22:23    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

To make things easier for my heirs, I hope to sell my collection before I die. In case I die before that time, my executor has a spreadsheet showing all my current pieces, collection ID number, dimensions, locality, where they were bought, when, and for how much. On another tab in the spreadsheet I list all mineral sales I have made with all the same info (I move an entry from the "owned" to the "sold" tab when I sell.) I have also given them a folder that contains a picture of every piece and the collection ID number and other identifying features are put in the picture and the file name for the picture as shown in the attached example.

I keep all old labels and other info in the box with the specimen so they don't get lost.

I also tell my executor where the rocks are: All of my expensive rocks are in a series of safety deposit boxes at a bank so I don't need to fret about fire/earthquake/theft risks.

Finally, I have given him a word file with my ideas of how to sell the rocks, which dealers to call, and my views on what the important rocks are worth.



8E12-10A 0125 Aqua Medina.jpg
 Mineral: Beryl
 Locality:
Medina, Minas Gerais, Brazil
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8E12-10A 0125 Aqua Medina.jpg


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Michael Shaw
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2023 22:38    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

Sounds like a well thought out plan Matt. By the way, that's an awesome aqua.
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James Catmur
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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2023 08:29    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

I have suggested selling the collections before I die, but the children will not let me.

I have also prepared a Word document which tells them how to sell it and what the values are of each specimen and for the whole collection. I have suggested what value they should ask a dealer for both low end and high end specimens, but things move too fast for me to track the 'sell' value of the high end material.

By tracking the market I have worked out a low end and high end inflation rate, and a rough criteria for what is the threshold between the two. I always find it hard to value self collected material.

Just finished the latest batch of labels for recent acquisitions.

Matt_Zukowski wrote:
To make things easier for my heirs, I hope to sell my collection before I die.

Finally, I have given him a word file with my ideas of how to sell the rocks, which dealers to call, and my views on what the important rocks are worth.
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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2023 10:43    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

I don't worry about the future of my collection, I will donate it to a museum. This will be my grave!
It is difficult to accept that the repurchase is done at 10% of the value, only for the best pieces.
My excellent friend, Dr. André Rostenne, reinforced my thinking by saying: the collection is a consumer good. Its memory lasts longer than a gourmet meal!
The classification of my collection, which I find somewhat narcissistic, has never bothered me. Let the future curator of the museum do his job. In the 1960s and 1980s, localities were deliberately imprecise. What interested me was the material. I am not a museum curator. I only like to have a good specimen to photograph, describe and publish its history for educational purposes (for my AGAB club, even if I have published a series of articles on Meteorites in Minéraux et Tossiles.. I have been a teacher-researcher all my life (ULiège).
An anecdote, I studied organic catalysts whose heart was the sequence of a spinel, summarized as M-O-M' soluble in heptane for example (homogeneous phase catalysis). About it around 1975. This mineral silhouette was substitued by alkyl groups which allowed solubilization in non-polar solvents, a bit like tetraethyl lead was added to gasoline.



R01-ANdre-Rostenne625-bis_R.jpg
 Mineral: Dr André Rostenne
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John S. White
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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2023 11:01    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

Well stated Roger. The only consideration with donating a mineral collection to a museum is attempting to gain assurance that the museum is worthy of receiving the collection. Is the museum currently well curated? Many, I feel, are not and show no signs of improving. Further, it is very important that the person making the donation not attempt to add a lot of conditions to the gift, such as demanding that the museum receiving the gift not be permitted to swap specimens from the donated collection for other specimens.
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James Catmur
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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2023 12:18    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

We gifted a selection of important artwork collected by a family member in Australia in the 1850s to the museum of Western Australia. Their one condition was 'no conditions', which we were happy to agree to.

We have also gifted material to my grand-father's collection, again with no conditions, I know the curators have not kept it all. So be it.

John S. White wrote:
Further, it is very important that the person making the donation not attempt to add a lot of conditions to the gift, such as demanding that the museum receiving the gift not be permitted to swap specimens from the donated collection for other specimens.
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PostPosted: Nov 19, 2023 06:11    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

Hi Michael

Thanks for posting. I'm delighted that the Russell Society talk / panel discussion has proven to be of value.

People may be interested to know that the Geological Curators Group winter seminar on 28 November 2023 has picked up on this topic and the theme for the day will be Building bridges between collectors and museums’.

See https://www.geocurator.org/events
(link normalized by FMF)

for more details and how to join the meeting which will be run on Zoom (Cost is £10).



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James Catmur
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PostPosted: Nov 19, 2023 07:38    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

Rpy

I was about to drop you a message about this! Please contribute as we discuss it

I have registered for the event, and await the link to the online meeting

James

Roy Starkey wrote:
Hi MIchael

Thanks for posting. I'm delighted that the Russell Society talk / panel discussion has proven to be of value.

People may be interested to know that the Geological Curators Group winter seminar on 28 November 2023 has picked up on this topic and the theme for the day will be Building bridges between collectors and museums’.

See www.geocurator.org/events
(link normalized by FMF)

for more details and how to join the meeting which will be run on Zoom (Cost is £10).
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James Catmur
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PostPosted: Nov 19, 2023 07:51    Post subject: Re: Curating your collection  

I once came across someone's donated collection stored in a damp cellar where pyrite rot had run riot. I later tried to rescue it, and heard that it had been given to another institution, who I hope did a better job. I have not checked on their stewardship.

John S. White wrote:
Well stated Roger. The only consideration with donating a mineral collection to a museum is attempting to gain assurance that the museum is worthy of receiving the collection. Is the museum currently well curated? Many, I feel, are not and show no signs of improving. Further, it is very important that the person making the donation not attempt to add a lot of conditions to the gift, such as demanding that the museum receiving the gift not be permitted to swap specimens from the donated collection for other specimens.
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