Procedures & Protocols


Curation and management of natural history collections are based on a whole series of procedures that have been found to provide effective ways to look after specimens. Several reference books and organizations serve to channel best practices to the collection community and our procedures follow these guidelines wherever feasible.

General Procedures

NPL uses an online information booklet, Procedures and Protocols at NPL (PDF), for general procedures. It is a document which can be accessed anywhere in the repository. Basic guidelines are fairly stable but the document is frequently updated as we find better ways to accomplish tasks or add new projects requiring specific protocols.

Database Management Wiki

Other online helps include a wiki for working with our main database Specify 6.

Disaster Management

Disaster management includes complete plastic coverage of any open collections, cabinets are raised off ground level, each area has first aid and fire extinguishers, with the prep lab having additional showers, eye bath, spill blankets, fume hood, and suitable housing for flammable and corrosive chemicals. Duplicate catalogues are stored in separate buildings and all computer files, databases, images and documents, are backed-up on a daily basis.

Pest Management

Pest management is a constant concern. Especially attractive are the large collection of old paper labels, and adhesives on thin sections. Where feasible old labels have been removed from the collection, scanned and replaced with computer generated labels. Thin section are removed from the warehouse and stored in the climate controlled building. The ongoing cleaning of cabinets, drawers and specimens and replacement of the old wooden cabinets with metal fixtures is slowly improving the situation. Insect pests are monitored with sticky traps and rodents by droppings and visual sightings.

Relative Humidity Comparison of Two Buildings

Relative humidity is higher and more variable in PRC33 (red bar), where specimens are in wooden drawers without climate control, than in PRC122 (blue bar), where specimens are in metal gasketed cabinets with climate control.

Climate Monitoring

Many specimens include shell or matrix material that is unstable. Most reactivity occurs with the presence of water, and thus specimens are very susceptible to high humidity. Ideal conditions for geological collections require a relative humidity (RH) of 40-45%. Control of humidity in our small repository area (PRC122) is fairly good inside well-gasketed cabinets, but there is no climate control in the large repository (PRC33).
Health and Safety

Any UT employer who works with lab materials must take suitable courses, most of which can be taken online through Environmental Health & Safety.