[tdwg-content] Occurrences, Organisms, and CollectionObjects: a review

Paul J. Morris mole at morris.net
Thu Sep 8 17:21:46 CEST 2011

The definition of collection object has been bothering me, and I'll use
Steve's comment below as a jumping off point.

On Thu, 8 Sep 2011 06:02:49 -0500
Steve Baskauf <steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu> wrote:
>  Being derived from an Organism is the minimal 
> requirement for a collection object.

This is dramatically different from the long history of use of the term collection object (since at least the ASC model), as being a physical thing in a natural science collection, where any of the following can be collection objects cataloged in a collection: 

A single herbarium sheet with two pressed plants of different species collected in two different collecting events at two different localities.

A cast of a fossil bone.

A model of a hypothetical soft part reconstruction of an extinct organism.

A herbarium sheet bearing a drawing of a plant.

A bulk sample of sediment and fossils with collecting event and locality data.

A slab of rock containing many fossils of different taxa.

A vial of insects in ethanol collected in a trap.

A herbarium packet containing a rock, two lichens, and a moss.  

A mouse, comprised of skull, skeleton, skin, and tissue sample preparations.  

A mouse, comprised of a set of related collection objects: skull, skeleton, skin, and tissue sample, each with its own catalog number (perhaps with the tissue sample in a different collection using a number in a different catalog number series).  

In many instances in many collections there is not a one to one relationship between a collection object and an organism.   In lot based collections, collection objects are often sets of individual organisms.  In some disciplines, collection objects are often aggregates of many different individuals belonging to multiple different taxa.  Collection objects are often heirarchies of derived objects derived through various preparation techniques (the bulk sample that has been partly picked with macrofossils sorted into lots by higher taxon, with some of these lots sorted and identified down to the species level, with some parts of some specimens mounted on SEM stubs; or the mouse prepared into multiple preparation types).  

A short definition of a collection object might be: "a thing that can be sent on loan from a collection".  

Paul J. Morris
Biodiversity Informatics Manager
Harvard University Herbaria/Museum of Comparative Zoölogy
mole at morris.net  AA3SD  PGP public key available

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