Welcome to module 6

Learning Objectives


Module 6 will introduce the unique challenges and characteristics of living collections and how they differ from standard museum collections.

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • Name three distinct types of living collections or living museums
  • Identify three possible complications of having living collections
  • Articulate three distinct motivations behind having living collections or living museums

lecture THEMES

Overview, Botanical Gardens, arboreta

Living collections are curated for various purposes including education and research. They maintain collections of living organism and interpret them for their visitors in the form of zoos, aquariums, living arthropod zoos, botanical gardens, living cell cultures and many more. In contrast living history museums are built in an attempt by people to simulate life in another time. Generally the other time is in the past. Living collections play a crucial role in biological research including identifying, acquiring, propagating and growing appropriate materials. Botanical gardens in particular have featured prominently in the introduction and distribution of many medicinal plants, crops and ornamental plants and have influenced many aspects of human existence. Botanical Gardens continue to educate and promote sustainable use of natural resources, plant conservation and biodiversity. (18:17)

Living Culture Collections and Zoos

Kyndall Hildebrandt, University of Alaska Museum Collection Manager of the Frozen Tissue Collection, introduces living culture collections and zoos and their role in biodiversity conservation and research and the challenges that the maintenance of these living collections require. (8:11)

Living Arthropod Exhibits

Derek Sikes, University of Alaska Museum Curator of Insects and Professor of Entomology, discusses considerations for anyone planning a live arthropod exhibit. (8:29)

Living history

Instructor Josh Reuther gives a discussion on living history and open-air museums and the practice of re-enacting past significant events and everyday life. (22:54)


Andrés López introduces another living collection, aquariums, and discusses the challenges and opportunities offered by this type of living collection.
Watch here. (18:11)


Living collections have their own special shared terminology. Learn these words to be more informed about these special types of museums.

  1. Arboretum
  2. Living History Museum
  3. Seed Bank
  4. Historical Re-enactor
  5. Herbivore
  6. USDA Aphis
  7. Arthropod
  8. Culture (biological sense)
  9. Microorganism
  10. Herbivore
  11. Xeriscape
  12. Museum Fatigue

Activities / Assignments

Reading / Video content



Kew Gardens – The Breathing Planet Campaign (6:12)

The Arnold Arborteum (7:54)

Svalbard Seed Vault (5:35)

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (2:55)

Leggy! Live Spiders and Their Relatives (0:30) / (2:57) / (2:55) / (1:43)

Johns Hopkins Insectary Tour (1:41)

Árbær Open Air Museum – Reykjavik, Iceland (1:25)

Welcome to Skansen! – Stockholm, Sweden (2:22)

Cool in Your Zip: Pioneer Living History Museum – Phoenix, AZ (3:35)

O.K. Corral – Tombstone, AZ (1:01)

Amy the Face of MyINDY-TV learns about Freetown Village Inc, a living history museum with no walls – Indianapolis, IN (4:04)

Living History at Gettysburg – Gettysburg, PA (1:56)



For Exploration:


Log into our course shell in Canvas and go to ‘Quizzes’ on the left side menu.

Take ‘6 Quiz’:  Living Collections.

You will have up to three attempts to match the vocabulary and definitions. Click over to Canvas to take quiz 6.

Meet Up

Time to get together! This is optional but highly encouraged. We will meet via Zoom at 12:30 pm (AKST) on Friday February 24. The link to the session can be found in this Google Document (you must be part of the class to view the document). If you are unable to join the meeting will be recorded and you will be expected to review the recording prior to writing your discussion post (see below).


Discuss: Name some complications of having living collections?

  1. Create a new post on this website and answer this question based on your personal experience. Your post should be roughly 500 words and should include an image. Think about material this week and personal experiences you have had to help illustrate your ideas. Alternately, find a recent news article to share about a museum, what are some of your thoughts relating to the article.
  2. At the end of your post, include a question for your fellow students to answer.
  3. Respond to each others’ posts (you will need to respond to/comment on at least two other posts).
  4. Select “6. Living Collections” from the list of discussion categories on the right hand side of your posting window on the dashboard.

Looking Forward

Next week we’ll look at practical issues in museum collections management, museum archives, and records management.

Did you know?

Fun tidbit not to be tested on.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo contains the world largest collection of milk samples, exotic animal milk samples that is. – Source