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Paleobotany Collection Policies

Museums generally derive their prominence from their collections, and reciprocally, a museum's obligation to its collections is paramount. Each object is an integral part of a scientific composite. In order to preserve the paleobotanical specimens housed at the UMMP, the following policies have been adopted. Users of the Paleobotany Collections are encouraged to see the UMMP Collections Policy.

General Procedures

  • Museum specimens should be handled with the utmost care. Specimen labels should also be handled carefully. For a non-catalogued specimen, the field label is the only link to the pertinent collection data. Never remove or modify the locality or specimen number written on a fossil specimen. If you note an illegible or incorrect locality or specimen number on a specimen, notify the Collection Manager immediately.
  • Compression-impression fossils can be severely damaged by your admiration! Please do not brush, rub, or otherwise touch the surface of a compression-impression plant fossil. You will walk away with valuable information on your fingers.
  • To facilitate the location of specimens in a multi-user environment, there can be only one correct storage location for each specimen in the Paleobotany Collection. If uncertain where a specimen belongs, do not hesitate to ask the Collection Manager for assistance. Never move specimens within the collection without prior approval from the Curator or Collection Manager.
  • Please check with the Collection Manager before using the collection. Close cabinet drawers immediately upon removing specimens and return specimens to their drawers promptly after use. Do not force the aging wooden cabinet door. Unless otherwise authorized, specimens are not to be left out after use or overnight but should be returned to the appropriate storage location. When removing a specimen from its cabinet for longer than one day, a withdrawal card (orange) must be completely and legibly filled out to indicate the date, borrower, specimen catalog number and identification, and temporary storage location. The withdrawal slip must be placed in the storage cabinet in place of the specimen. See the Collection Manager to obtain these withdrawal slips and for instructions in filling them out. Be sure to remove the withdrawal slip and destroy it when you return the specimen to its appropriate cabinet.
  • Specimens must not be modified in any way without prior approval from the Curator or Collection Manager. Changes in identification or locality data may be penciled in directly on specimen labels. Please bring these changes to the attention of the Collection Manager so that they may also be recorded in the collection database.
  • Loose material broken or flaked off of a specimen is to remain in the specimen tray with the appropriate specimen. Do not discard or otherwise modify these fragments.
  • Trays, vials, and slide boxes are available for the storage of fossil specimens. Specimen trays are expensive, so please avoid writing on them, using tape or glue in them, or placing wet specimens in them. Inform the Collection Manager when supplies need to be reordered.
  • The collection card file and databases are the source of data for the collection and thus should be considered as archival. Please do not catalog any specimen. The Collection Manager or designated person will catalog all material.
  • Determinations or comments on current determinations are welcomed. Please fill out a det slip (see Collection Manager or Curator) with your determination or comment, your name, institution and the date.

Types and Figured Specimens

  • Type and Figured specimens are kept with the body of the collection within the appropriate locality or floristic site. These specimens are completely catalogued and entered into the database. Many types bear a large red diamond either on their locality card or on the specimen itself.
  • The Type and Figured specimens should be treated with extreme care, as these specimens will have an impact on paleobotanical studies for many years to come. Do not remove labels from specimen trays, colored dots or other markings on or associated with the specimen. Unless otherwise authorized do not add markings to the specimens. Labels may be annotated, and the Collection Manager notified of such changes.
  • Type and Figured specimens may be loaned. You must follow the same procedures and policy regarding loans for non-type material. Types are normally sent via traceable mail.


  • It is standard museum policy that loans are made between institutions rather than individuals. Therefore, all loans (including loans to and from other institutions as well as University of Michigan interdepartmental loans) must be arranged through the Curator or Collection Manager. All relevant paperwork will be prepared by the Collection Manager and stored with other Loan files. Never remove specimens from the Paleobotany Range or the Museum without approval from a Curator and appropriate documentation provided by the Collection Manager.
  • Loans are to be made for a period of six (6) months, with an extension usually granted by the Curator(s) or Collection Manager upon request. Request for loans to be hand carried by visitors must allow adequate time to prepare the material for transport. The Collection Manager will determine if the request for material will allow sufficient time to be prepared before the visitor departs.
  • Materials that will suffer from transportation (either posted or hand carried) should not be loaned. The Curator(s) will authorize and assume responsibility for material that is so loaned.
  • Details of procedures in requesting loans and receiving loans are outlined in a separate policy concerning the loan of paleobotanical specimens.

Work Areas

  • The number of work surfaces available to visitors and students using the Paleobotany Collection is limited. The Collection Manager will assign space for each individual's use before work on the collections begins. Please be considerate of others by clearing off these surfaces at the end of each workday. Brushes and other cleaning materials are available. Keep personal items (backpacks, computers, calculators, and so on) safe and out of the way of others using the Range.
  • Return chairs, carts and ladder stairs to their appropriate locations (if uncertain ask the Collection Manager) at the end of each day.
  • Temporary storage cases are available for materials being processed or studied over a relatively long period of time. These cases will be assigned at the discretion of the Collection Manager and will be clearly labeled.
  • Please keep audio equipment at a low volume or use with earphones so that other users of the Collections Area can dedicate their attention to their research.

Disposal of Waste

Campus-wide policies which pertain to the disposal of "sharps," chemicals, recyclables, and biological waste also apply to the Paleobotany Range. In general, these materials should never be thrown directly in the trash. Small sharps such as scalpel and straight-edged razor blades must be placed in the designated container in Range. Broken glass or other large sharps should be wrapped in paper and sealed in a clearly labeled box or paper bag. See the Collection Manager for specific information regarding the disposal of chemicals or biological waste.


  • General safety procedures should be practiced at all times when moving trays or other containers holding specimens. Visitors using the collections and the equipment in the Range should not wear loose-sleeved clothing as this often tends to get caught on corners, handles, or within the blade area of sawing equipment.
  • Visitors should ask for assistance when moving or lifting heavy materials, trays, and so on.
  • Safety goggles are provided and must be worn when using the saw or other rock cutting or splitting equipment. After use of this equipment, the visitor must clean the work area of debris and other waste material and dispose of this in the rock/matrix disposal boxes provided.
  • Generally, clear headed, common sense is all that is required to prevent serious mishaps in the work and collection areas.
  • Fire extinguishers are available in the Paleobotany Range. Visitors and Students should familiarize themselves with their location and operation.

Graduate and Undergraduate Students

  • Students working with specimens are expected to abide by the procedures listed within this policy.
  • Students are responsible for curating, cleaning, and cataloguing their research specimens, under the guidance and supervision of the Collection Manager.
  • Graduate Student Instructors or others may use the range for tours or demonstrations, but should make arrangements with the Curator and Collection Manager to allow time to accommodate such use.