Paris is nice at any time of the year! This September has been very warm everywhere and especially in Paris. I have had a Leonardo da Vinci mobility grant to visit the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (MNHN) to study how they cope with their digitisation plan.
The Grande Galerie de l'Evolution of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in the Jardin des Plantes of Paris.
Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-1788), Comte de Buffon, intendant (director) at the Jardin du Roi (1739-1788), now called the Jardin des Plantes.
I was based in the Département Histoire de la Terre, Laboratoire de Paléontologie, and my host has been Dr Didier Merle, curator of fossil molluscs and editor-in-chief of the palaeontological journal Geodiversitas.
Main entrance of the Laboratoire de Paléontologie.
My main interest in this visit was to see how they manage the 'Typothèque', a place where type and figured fossils are housed, and how the MNHN publishes its database of these specimens online.
The Typothèque was created by M. Jean Claude Fischer in 1985 in order to keep all the type and figured specimens of fossil invertebrates together in the same room, making them more accessible to the visitors. This is a big advantage compared to other collections in the same department (fossil plants, fossil vertebrates and micropalaeontology) or other departments at the MNHN. It contains important specimens such as those of the d’Orbigny, d’Archiac and Cossman collections.
Currently there is a technician, M. Jean-Michel Pacaud, working full time at this Typothèque, maintaining it and recording any new type or figured specimen. More than 90% of the fossil invertebrates have been databased.
The database application used at the MNHN is the demonstrator program JACIM, linked to a paleo database supplying data to the website of the MNHN automatically. An xsp (eXtensible Server Pages Processor) is used to make their collection visible on the website.
The JACIM website.
Specimen labels produced and immediately visualised by the user interface of JACIM.
Information visible about the specimen through the MNHN website.
Curation at the Typothèque involves using different colour labels depending on whether specimens are types (yellow labels) or figured specimens (white ones), making them visible immediately. Specimens are ordered:
- principally by the main invertebrate groups as gastropods, echinoderms, corals, bryozoans, etc
- secondly by stratigraphy
- thirdly by geography
- finally by alphabetical order of the species name
This organisation is really useful as you can find any specimen kept there immediately. Another advantage is that the MNHN policy does not allow loans of type specimens. Consequently they are always available for visitors.
Congratulations to the MNHN for their well thought out and planned in advance Typothèque!