For this weeks discussion I chose to research databases on the Shoebill Stork. Surprisingly, though the shoebill is a large bird that primaily finds it habitat range in the African nation of Sudan, there is a museum database record from the natural history museum in Oslo, Norway.

The shoebill in this collection, scientific name Balaeniceps rex, is quite old. The date of collection was in 1913, in southern Sudan and the specimen itself was collected by Edler von der Planitz and Josef Hesselberger. The catalog number of the specimen is NHMO-BI-102462, the item is preserved and was prepared as a taxidermy mount. Unfortunatly that is all the information that was provided in the database. No information on its measurements or whether it was a male or female specimen was recorded in the catalog. Only general information such as geographical location, method of preservation, and people who were involved in its collection and preservation.

Though the shoebill typically stands at around 4.5 feet in height, if I were to interact with a living shoebill I would note its approximate height, weight, feather color/pattern and behavioral characteristics. This can be done by visiting a living collection such as a zoo that cares for one. On the other hand, if I were to interact with a deceased and preserved shoebill specimen, I would note its anatomy, as well as inquire about its date of collection and who was involved in its collection if there was no record availiable.

My question is this: How detailed do you think data collections should be?

Shoebill being fed by its handler at the San Diego Zoo

4 Thoughts to “Data and Museums”

  1. Arianna Wyanski

    I think that data collections should be as detailed as possible. It’s important to note things about species and specimens, especially if they are endangered. It is also a way to have transparency with the public about the collection of species or specimens.

  2. Hannah Terwilliger

    I really liked your post! It was very interesting to read and learn! To answer you question, I think data bases should be as detailed as possible but nothing too much for the average person to be confused. I ran into some data bases in the past and I found myself confused on what certain parts of the data was.

  3. Rose Thao

    Great post! I think it’s very important for databases to be detailed as it saves researchers and musem staff the trouble of having to go through further files or databases to collect information that could have been in one single file to begin with. Being more detailed also allows less confusion for new museum staff that will inherit a previous staff’s position.

  4. Avatar photoSavanna VonScheele

    I found your post very interesting! Those birds can get quite big! To answer your question; I find that it is very important to be as detailed as possible. I do not mind having the details to be rephrased so it can be clear on an online data base for the publics standards, but they should also have a paper documented in great detail incase a file ever gets lost and I find having the more details the better! Which benefits not only the staff but anyone that accesses the file/information to have better answers to whatever they may need it for.

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