Although working from home brings its own set of challenges, it has provided time to focus on projects that have been repeatedly pushed to the back-burner. I’ve picked up one of those projects — extracting and digitizing specimens that are currently stored Riker mounts (see this old post from 2012 for reasons why we’d want to remove specimens from this type of storage system). In the 80’s or 90’s (I can’t recall, and those records are kept at the office!), the Frost Museum was donated an awesome collection of butterflies from South America, primarily from the Bucaramanga region in Colombia. Unfortunately, all these specimens were housed in Riker mounts and the associated data was not kept with each of the specimens, but written down in a notebook that needed serious decoding. There are two large totes like this one with about 5-10 specimens in each Riker:
I’d estimate there are about 600 – 700 butterflies in need of processing. The goal is to convert them all into pinned specimens, and integrate them into the collection so they can be more easily located, studied, and properly cared for!
Each Riker mount has a page in the notebook with associated data, an example is shown by the the two images below.
At first glance these data don’t look complete, but the more I stare at notes like these the more they start to make sense! Some specimens are only assigned #s, some are given descriptions, some have been moved to and from other Riker mounts, and sometimes (like in this example) the notes are organized in the order that the specimens are mounted in the Riker. Towards the back of the notebook are other pages that contains more information about the specimens that are only given #s in the Riker Type pages. Working through these notes has been a little like putting pieces of a puzzle together, complete with gratifying ‘ah-ha!’ moments.
One of the most surprising and cool parts of this project (so far) is that while extracting specimens I’ve discovered old Columbian newspaper pages from around the time these specimens were collected. They were folded up and stuffed behind the Riker mounts!
The current plan is to keep these newspaper pages with the field notebook, but if anyone out there reading this has better ideas of what to do with them, send your ideas our way!