New & Noteworthy

Archive for September, 2010

27 Sep 2010

Economic Trends Survey is Now Closed

NSCA would like to thank all those who took the time to fill out the survey on collections and the economy.  The survey is now closed.  A report outlining survey results is forthcoming and will be posted to the NSCA website.

23 Sep 2010

IMLS to Develop Web-Based Census of Museums

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has announced that it has entered into a contract with the White Oak Institute and the American Association of Museums (AAM) to develop standard data definitions in collaboration with the museum field.  This work is part of the agency’s museum data collection project, Museums Count.

“We are delighted to announce that we will be working with the White Oak Institute and the American Association of Museums on this effort.  Their knowledge and expertise will help to ensure that we are successful in developing a resource that reflects the complexity and diversity of the museum sector,” said Marsha L. Semmel, Acting Director of IMLS. “Every museum in the country has a stake in the success of this project and we look forward to a collaborative, engaging process.  The lack of comprehensive, reliable data about the size and scope of the museum sector in the United States is a considerable barrier to developing the type of public policy that is needed to fully realize the educational, economic, and cultural value of museums.”

The first task for White Oak and AAM will be to study 10 – 20 existing data sets on U.S. museums and museum participation to develop an overview of currently used data definitions.  A variety of methods will be used to engage a wide range of museum directors, museum organizations, research and evaluation leaders, and other interested parties to provide input on standardizing the definitions and prioritizing the value of different elements.  The final deliverable will be a report detailing a Museum Census Roadmap, including a data glossary, recommendations for database functionality, and a communications strategy.

This fall, IMLS staff will travel to each of the six regional museum association conferences to engage attendees in a dialogue about Museums Count at IMLS-sponsored sessions and at the agency’s exhibit booths.  At the same time, the White Oak Institute and AAM will begin the process of consulting with representatives of the entire museum sector through invitational research convenings and large-scale open discussion channels.

In tandem with this effort, IMLS is working with International Information Associates to create the information architecture for Museums Count and gather basic name, address, and contact information from a variety of sources.  Now and through 2011, IMLS will work extensively with the museum sector to verify this list for a clean, comprehensive database of every museum in the nation before launching an online, searchable database, which will be updated on an annual basis.

Through this project, every museum in the United States will be represented in a national, public database.  Museums, museum associations, advocates, and researchers will be able to:

  • map the exact location of every museum in the United States;
  • find peer museums across the country;
  • determine the true scope and size of the museum sector;
  • locate individual museums or museum organizations within a larger social or economic context;
  • make statements about the capacity of museums in a city, state, or region;
  • establish the known universe of institutions to inform museum research at the local and national level;
  • find potential partners;
  • compare benchmarks and find best practices; and,
  • link to museums with common interests.

To learn more about Museums Count, please contact Carlos Manjarrez at

23 Sep 2010

Herbarium Specimens Provide Potential Wealth of Climate Impact Data

New research published in the Journal of Ecology demonstrates one of the many values of natural history collections.  Researchers in the United Kingdom have shown that preserved plant specimens can be used in place of field observations to determine the impacts of climate change on phenology.  The team compared specimens of early spider orchids (Ophrys sphegodes) from several collections with field observations of the species.  They found that the flowering times inferred from the herbarium specimens matched the observations of earlier flowering in nature.  According to the paper’s co-author Tony Davy, the data “enables us to predict what the effects of a change in climate are going to be,” which is especially useful when field observation are not available.  Given the large number of specimens in collections around the world, the potential exists for a huge amount of information, according to Davy.  To read the article published by BBC, visit

22 Sep 2010

NSC Alliance, 13 Other Science Organizations Ask Senate to Support Public Access to Independent Scientific Research Assessments of the Gulf of Mexico

On September 15, 2010, the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) joined 13 other scientific organizations to express concern “with the issue of intellectual property rights and ownership of research results that arise in the aftermath of incidents caused by industry, most recently, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.” In a letter delivered to every United States Senator, the groups stated that the “public needs access to results and conclusions not affected by legal wrangling or private ownership. We are writing specifically to request that a source of independent funding for research on actual or potential industry impacts be available and dispersed from an independent source.”

The complete letter is available at

22 Sep 2010

Science Organizations Urge Russia to Preserve Pavlovsk Experiment Station and its Living Plant Collections

On September 16, 2010, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Ecological Society of America (ESA) issued an open letter urging the Russian government to preserve the Pavlovsk Experiment Station in Saint Petersburg. The facility is home to more than 5,000 distinct varieties of fruit trees and plans, most of which are extinct or endangered around the world. Many of these plant species have been cultivated at the site since 1926. Established by the internationally acclaimed Russian botanist, Nikolai Vavilov, the 200 acres which the Pavlovsk Experiment Station (part of the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry) occupies are set to be auctioned off for real estate development in late September 2010.

In addition to urging action to preserve the Pavlovsk plant collections, the letter draws attention to the importance of natural science collections. “Biological collections, whether living or non-living, are vitally important to humanity,” stated Dr. Joseph Travis, president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “Natural science collections have provided insights into a wide variety of biological issues and pressing societal problems. These research centers help identify new food sources, develop treatments for disease and suggest how to control invasive pests. Natural science collections belong to the world and cannot be limited by geographic borders.”

Travis also encouraged governmental and non-governmental organizations to work collaboratively to ensure that we maintain and conserve the irreplaceable genetic information in natural science collections that has been collected by scientists over the past several hundred years. “For example, the proposed elimination of the Pavlovsk Experiment Station in Russia would close one of the doors on future innovations in Russian science and agriculture and, by doing so, hinder Russia’s ability to contribute to developing new food crops for the world.”

The complete letter is available at