FIELD MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
A destination for study
Field Museum collections are a “must-see” for scientists seeking the hard evidence on the development of Earth’s life and cultures. The stream of researchers from around the world who studied in our collections last year included an ichthyologist from the Congo, a fern specialist from Vietnam, an archaeologist from Argentina, mammalogists from Kenya and Rwanda, a botanist from Brazil, and a snake expert from Germany— not to mention graduate students and colleagues from universities and museums around the world. The collections hosted more than 700 on-site researchers, and logged more than 90,000 online visits.
A site of discovery
Our collections yielded notable discoveries in 2014. A new species of monkey from Peru was identified in our mammal collections by a researcher from the Global Conservation Institute. A study of fossil sharks from our Mazon Creek collection by a team of scientists from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan proposed that Illinois was a nursery for these sharks 300 million years ago. A team of German researchers publishing in Science used Field Museum meteorites to establish the most accurate chronology of planetary core formation to date. Specimens from our collections were instrumental to these and thousands of other publications during the year.
An opportunity for learning
Our very successful Meet a Scientist program continued to bring our collections and our science to tens of thousands of visitors in the public museum in 2014, while Virtual Visits connected K-12 classes to our collections and labs through live video broadcasts. The popular Brain Scoop series on YouTube has given millions of on-line visitors a peek into our collections to learn about everything from fossil meteorites to Pacific island spears. Our vast collections contain limitless stories that inspire the imagination and spark learning at all levels.
Enhancing access to our collections for science and public learning
We made dramatic progress on collections digitization, with more than 350,000 data records and 200,000 images added to databases. We also made significant advances in opening access to our unique and most important collections. A joint effort of Collections and technology staff made our Vertebrate Paleontology collection—more than 100,000 records—web-accessible, and high-resolution scanning of South American plants exceeded 100,000 specimens. We also initiated an NSF-funded project aimed at digitizing some 80,000 invasive plants and 25,000 invasive fishes from the Great Lakes watershed, linking them to a national database that will help document species invasions and restoration efforts.
Besides enhancing research and conservation, digitization opens our collections to educators and volunteers. In 2014 the Collections and Action centers collaborated to create an on-line Chicagoland butterfly gallery (www. fieldmuseum.org/science/blog/chicagoland-butterfly-gallery), with photographs of 131 species of butterflies. A new app, The Art & Science of Birds (available on iTunes) draws on Museum collections to explore artistic and scientific perspectives on birds that connect Artist-in-Residence Peggy Macnamara’s watercolors with the Museum’s collections. Our anthropological collections team and co-curators from Chicago’s Filipino-American community created a “StoryMap” website highlighting selected objects from the Philippines collection (maps.fieldmuseum.org/apps/philippines/#)—part of an effort that will make 80% of the collection accessible on-line.