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

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Thu Sep 8 21:06:16 CEST 2011

Paul J. Morris wrote:
> Resource maintained as part of a collection sounds like a description of a collection object, "has been cataloged" does not.  The vast majority of the 5 million or so collection objects in the Harvard University Herbaria have not been cataloged.  The vast majority of all specimens in the stratigraphic portions of paleontological collections have not been cataloged.  A heirarchical collection object consisting of a dry snail shell with one catalog number in one collection and soft parts in ethanol with a separate catalog number in another collection isn't is also problematic for associating a collection object with cataloged items.  Botanical duplicates likewise.  
Well, we may be talking past each other here if we have different 
understandings about what it means for something to be cataloged.  But I 
would assert that any of the 5 million uncatalogued items in the Harvard 
University Herbaria are not relevant to Darwin Core in their present 
state because Darwin Core is a scheme for organizing metadata.  How are 
you going to organize metadata for an item that has no database 
record/has not been cataloged?  If you look at the terms that John is 
suggesting fall under the category of CollectionItem (i.e. properties of 
collection items), they are things like catalogNumber, disposition, 
otherCatalogNumbers, collectionObjectID, etc.  These are properties of 
things which have been cataloged and and have a record in a database.  
You can't assign those properties to herbarium sheets that have no 
records in a database.  In other words, the purpose of creating the 
class CollectionObject is not to describe the idea of what a collection 
object is, but rather to organize metadata for things that HAVE recorded 
metadata.  No metadata, no reason for DwC to deal with it.

I'm not understanding your issue with separate parts or duplicates.  If 
each one has it's own record, then each one is a separate instance of 
CollectionObject.  They could be related to each other or the organism 
from which they came by properties like dcterms:hasPart, 
dcterms:isPartOf, or dsw:derivedFrom
> Field notes, publications, and digital images fall outside the scope of the meaning of collection object.  
Maybe we need a different name for the class if this is an impediment to 
too many people.
> (Though digital images might be derived objects derived from a collection object through a digital imaging preparation process).  Field notes tend to be seen as metadata about the collecting event, though they might be the only source of information about other observations.  
> Voucher is perhaps a better term for the broader concept.  
Again, I'm repeating something I said on the list earlier, but I've been 
chided by some botanists for collecting images of live plants without 
collecting "vouchers".  In that context, the person who scolded me 
intended for the term "voucher" to only include physical parts of a 
plant, and not images - a narrower concept than what John has in his 
definition.  So we would run into the same problem of people having a 
preconceived idea of what "voucher" means that would basically be the 
same as what you are asserting "CollectionObject" means.


Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

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