EcoTarium Reaches Milestone in Collections Inventory | EcoTarium

EcoTarium Reaches Milestone in Collections Inventory

Process in place thanks to Institute of Museums and Library Services "Museums for America" grant
Release Date: 
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

WORCESTER, MASS. – The EcoTarium is proud to announce a milestone in collections inventorying goals as part of a grant received in October of 2015 from the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS). After the first calendar year, the EcoTarium has inventoried over 4,000 collection objects from its permanent collection, teaching collection, and historical library. The 4,000 inventoried items was well over the goal of 3,000 collection objects the first year of the grant. The work accomplished by the efforts of the EcoTarium staff and hardworking volunteers has put the museum on its way to having its collections documented, photographed, and organized in its digital database.   

In October of 2015, the EcoTarium received a $66,433 matching grant from IMLS to be used towards a two year project titled Increasing Inventorying Capacity at the EcoTarium and other Institutions with Small Natural History Collections: The Volunteer-Based Inventorying Protocol (VBI Protocol). Developed and piloted by Project Director Shana Hawrylchak, the EcoTarium’s manager of exhibits and collections, and Project Manager Casey McCabe, the EcoTarium’s collections specialist, the VBI Protocol and equipment upgrades allows the museum to increase its capacity to inventory its natural history collections in a cost-effective manner. The grant will fund the project for two years, which began on October 1, 2015 and will run until September 30, 2017.

“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “IMLS is proud to support their work through our grant making as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”

The EcoTarium’s approximately 45,000 – 55,000 item collections are significant both in regards to the history of the community and its environment, and in terms of the museum’s own history, as the EcoTarium is the nation’s second oldest natural history society. Using VBI Protocol, Ms. Hawrylchak and Ms. McCabe are working with approximately ten volunteers to make collection care a priority at the EcoTarium. Throughout the duration of the project, the VBI Protocol will be further refined and developed. Project goals include training volunteers in the VBI Protocol methodology, producing the VBI Training Program, inventorying and digitalizing a total of 6,000 specimens from the EcoTarium’s natural history collection, and producing a VBI Protocol Manual. Through helping to fund the creation of these systems, the grant will also allow the EcoTarium to work on its collection well after the grant period is complete. The second year of the grant marks another exciting advancement, as Collections staff work to put a portion of the collections online and searchable to the public.

The IMLS grant will help staff and volunteers at the EcoTarium educate the community locally and nationally. Ms. McCabe says, “Many of our collections objects are from the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. Our local specimens, such as those in our herbarium collection, are very important to local and regional history.” In addition to being a vital part of the inventorying process, the collections volunteers also have a vital role in sharing these pieces with the visiting public through the museum’s Curator’s Workshop exhibition.

Additional to the previously mentioned goals for the VBI Protocol, the EcoTarium has conducted a survey of 15 New England museums with smaller natural history collections to help identify institutions facing similar collections issues, while faced with similar lack of resources. The project will furthermore lay the foundation for collaborating with other New England regional institutions with natural history collections through development and administration of the New England Natural History Small Collections Survey. EcoTarium Collections staff has already begun sharing information and resources with the greater museum community presenting a small-museum’s webinar with The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and a conference session at the New England Museum’s Association (NEMA).

About Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission has been to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. For the past 20 years, our grant making, policy development, and research has helped libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About EcoTarium

EcoTarium is New England's leading museum of science and nature, an indoor-outdoor experience dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature in visitors of all ages. Founded in 1825, it has been a leader in informal science and nature education for nearly 200 years, and today welcomes more than 150,000 visitors per year. Highlights of the 55-acre campus include a museum building with three floors of interactive exhibits, the Alden Digital Planetarium: A National Geographic Theater, daily Science Discovery programs, live animal habitats, nature trails through forest and meadow, seasonal narrow-gauge railroad Explorer Express Train, and its expansive interactive outdoor exhibit, Nature Explore®.

The EcoTarium, located at 222 Harrington Way in Worcester, Mass., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sundays 12 noon to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children 2-18, $10 for seniors 65+ and students with ID, and children under 2 are free. WOO Pass holders receive $2 off admission for up to four people. Planetarium shows and Explorer Express Train require additional admission. Parking is free.


Charlene L. Leith-Bushey
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