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Unlocking The Legacy of Alberta's Natural Science Collections

Felix Sperling*1, Sean Graham1, Roisin Mulligan2, Catherine La Farge1, Janine Andrews3

1 Department of Biological Sciences, CW405 Biological Sciences Centre, T6G 2E9
2 Research Services Office, 222 Campus Tower, T6G 2E1
3 Museums and Collections Services, Ring House #1, T6G 2E1

University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA

* Corresponding author: Felix Sperling, Ph: 780-492-3991, Fax: 780-492-9234,


Alberta's natural science collections face fundamental challenges that are part of much larger issues beyond museums and collections. University collections can thrive in the midst of these challenges by focusing on a simple theme: unlocking the legacy of our collections. This paper describes our dreams, our strategies, and our progress in unlocking that legacy by building a distributed computer network that provides access to information about natural science collections objects in the province of Alberta. Access to basic specimen databases is enhanced through knowledge summaries that act as intellectual roadmaps. The network is energized by a vital community of collections users. Our aim is to build a virtual facility, for all public natural science collections in Alberta, that nurtures a dynamic, sustainable, and mutually supportive balance among objects, ideas, and people at multiple levels.

The Challenge of Museum Community Identity

Museums and collections in the Canadian province of Alberta are influenced by numerous, evolving, societal currents and constraints. The range and interwoven complexity of these forces challenge the sustainability of museums through the changing identity, nature, and interactions of the communities that collections serve.

The diversity and ambiguity of museum communities becomes a concern when the connection between the users and the financial support of a collection is tenuous. Although collection use may be extensive, and the act of studying a collection almost always adds significant value to it, that added value may not contribute to the upkeep of the collection. Users may also be unaware that particular specimens exist, or may not be able to physically sort through myriad objects. An obvious solution to these problems is to make primary accession data on collections objects widely available online, using a medium that is ideally suited to serving diffuse and difficult-to-define communities. Serving these communities more effectively also allows them to coordinate, consolidate, and connect with funding sources.

Collections supporters are not only researchers or even curious observers, but include people who are attracted to the sense of time, place, and the flow of history that collections impart. For these people, collections often play a key role in anchoring community identity in a multidimensional world. They house tangible touchstones and associated information that root community ideas and allow recourse to fact-based knowledge. Thus museums and collections can help to define and create communities, as well as the reverse. But unless museums are accessible to the communities that support them, the link between people, objects, and ideas will be broken and will be extremely difficult to rebuild.

The continual fragmentation and recombination of the university departments and government or private institutions that collections are embedded in is part of the challenge of community identity. Substantial portions of collections may be unrecorded or bcome disorganized, and the founders who built these valuable research and teaching resources inevitably retire, sometimes without replacement. In some cases, administrative policies shift toward short term cost recovery, jeopardizing collections that are currently receiving low use, but which nonetheless have enormous value as a long term record of the natural history of a region. Enhanced communication and data sharing can potentially assist collections that are struggling, whether by mobilizing community support or by enhancing visibility in ways that would have been impossible without advances in computer technology and the advantages of scale provided by a larger network of collections.

Even the relationship of Albertan people with the natural world is changing rapidly. With increasing urbanization and the need to keep our footing in a maelstrom of online information and new technology, we seem to have little time left to maintain familiarity with the little things that compose our natural world. Our loss of familiarity with our natural surroundings creates a deficit in the environmental literacy that is needed to make responsible decisions about issues like global climate change and ecological services. Museums have always served as windows to our larger natural world. Our challenge now is to provide portals that ensure that new generations will take the time to better understand nature. Paradoxically, our approach is to use computer technology to mitigate the alienation from the natural world that is due, in part, to overreliance on computer technology.

In spite of, and because of, these larger challenges, there has been an increase in requests and opportunities to access collections data. Rapid access to baseline data on biodiversity and climate change indicators feeds into more effective land or resource management. New opportunities and innovations are continually arising in computing technology in pattern recognition, data mining, or wireless communication. Information access and sharing between remote communities is possible on an unprecedented scale. Furthermore, in Alberta the timing for our project is both urgent, by transferring knowledge from a large cohort of curators who have recently retired or are nearing retirement, and appropriate, since the province of Alberta and the University of Alberta celebrate their centennials in 2005 and 2008, respectively.

Goals and Strategies

To meet the challenges of our changing communities, institutions, and environment, we are proposing to build a facility that will encompass all public natural science collections in Alberta. The Alberta Natural Science Collections Information Facility (ANSCIF) will digitize, database, and harmonize more than a century's worth of natural science collections information into a searchable web-based record of natural heritage. This resource will form the foundation of a community of researchers, naturalists, and educators throughout Alberta, with strong integration across Canada and internationally. The facility will include all recognized collections of biodiversity or earth science objects at institutions across the province, whether educational (Olds College and the Unversities of Lethbridge, Calgary and Alberta), provincial (Provincial Museum of Alberta, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Glenbow Musuem, and Alberta Research Council), or federal (Canadian Forest Service, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Parks Canada). The distributed virtual museum at the University of Alberta ( has served as a successful pilot project.

The ultimate goals of ANSCIF are to unite the rich natural science data resources of all participating institutions, and to act as an interface linking people (researchers, curators, students, teachers, naturalists, environmental consultants and members of the public), institutions (universities, colleges, museums, industry), and computational resources (hardware, software, enhanced content).

We hope to accomplish our goals within five years, with funding applications now under review by both the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Science and Research Investments Program. To achieve these goals, ANSCIF partner institutions will determine and confirm key management principles, under a general Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that formally lays out governance and collaborative team structure (Fig. 1). The MOU will also recognize that data ownership resides with publishing institutions, and will summarize the key objectives of the facility. Collaborative resource sharing principles will be articulated by the MOU, prior to final approval of funding. A comprehensive internal and external communications plan will be developed, including a regular email bulletin, manuals, guidelines, and an annual meeting for participants.

1. Creation of a comprehensive network of databases of collection object information for natural science collections in Alberta.

Foundation databases of collection objects will be the building blocks of ANSCIF. Although our pilot projects at the University of Alberta currently use MultiMimsy, ANSCIF will be platform-independent and will support the use of widespread database products such as Access, FileMaker Pro and SQL Server. Individual databases are to be housed and managed by each participating institution.

All data entries are to be anchored to individually identified specimens curated at each institution. Each institution will be responsible for cataloguing its own collections (generally onsite) in accordance with international standards and practices of collections documentation. The pace of databasing will vary depending on the kind of specimen object (e.g., herbarium sheets will be slower than pinned insects, because more information is recorded). Quality control of data entry will be the responsibility of the curator or collection representative, with quality oversight provided by standards and evaluation subcommittees. ANSCIF will contribute to initial training and coordination of data entry technicians.

Most specimen text information will be digitized manually, but some collections may explore data entry by voice recognition and optical character recognition. Digitization of specimens may be performed to different extents and in different ways for each collection. For example, high quality two-dimensional image scans are most appropriate for pressed vascular plants, whereas three-dimensional reconstructions may be more appropriate for large animal fossils.

Databases will be constructed in a manner compatible with system-wide data querying, using agreed-upon metadata (data structure) standards, such as Darwin Core V2 and georeferencing guidelines (such as those laid out by Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF). Specific programs, processes, or hardware will not otherwise be mandated. Unique and enhanced features among collections and databases will be encouraged.

2. Creation of enhanced knowledge summaries for collections data and objects, including species and geological type pages, allowing rapid intellectual access to significant collection contents.

ANSCIF participants will contribute to the production of knowledge summaries within their relevant disciplines. Knowledge summaries provide authoritative information (e.g., geographic, historical, stratigraphic, taxonomic, genetic) on a biological species or a class of earth science objects. They are comparable to naturalist field guides but are updated continually from the entire ANSCIF network and may be tailored to meet individual user requirements. For a working example of a knowledge summary for one University of Alberta collection, see the sample butterfly species page (Fig. 2) from the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum (

Knowledge summaries will be housed in a central repository but will be created and modified locally. Participation by emeritus academics and senior naturalists will be critical for producing effective knowledge summaries, to crystallize for future generations the experience and understanding of our current generation. Authors, editors, reviewers and revisers of species pages or equivalent knowledge summaries will be given credit and responsibility for their individual contributions. Knowledge summaries and associated images can be the copyright of the authors responsible for them, or they may be copyright by the institution where the creator is employed, in congruence with institutional policies. Knowledge summaries will be generated, where feasible, by the same staff who curate and confirm specimen identification prior to databasing.

Species pages will be produced for all species for which expertise is available, including vertebrates, plants, and insects and other invertebrates. We will start with economically important or charismatic groups of organisms. Similar criteria will be used to develop earth science knowledge summaries. Dynamically-generated summaries of specimen information (high quality tables and maps) will be created for all identified species and earth-science object classes.

Summary information will be derived from, and linked back to, individual specimens that are physically housed at ANSCIF institutions. Knowledge summaries will include digitized specimen images. General formats for knowledge summaries will be developed in tandem with procedural and metadata standards, that will dictate which data fields may be included to best describe a species or an earth science object, and how ANSCIF-wide information should be summarized graphically.

3. Creation of a distributed internet resource that will allow natural science collections data to be shared using a common set of standards.

The most efficient means for achieving the goal of uniting the natural science data resources of participating institutions is through the creation of a distributed network that is openly accessible and searchable over the Internet. The ANSCIF network will be an interoperable system of natural science databases and information repositories with a computational architecture that uses a Web Services model ( ANSCIF programs will be based on general web standards set by such organizations as the World Wide Web Consortium. Natural science specific standards, such as those of the Taxonomic Database Working Group, will also be met to ensure interoperability with regional informational networks that are not necessarily specimen based, such as the Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre (ANHIC), the Biodiversity Species Observation Database (BSOD), and the Fish Management Information System (FMIS).

After initial development of procedural and metadata standards for the exchange of data among participants, further work will concentrate on adding and creating tools for facility-wide searching, data mining, and geographic and historical modelling. Analysis may incorporate third-party analytical tools (e.g., ArcINFO). An early projected developmental step of ANSCIF will be the adoption and implementation of data exchange standards for specimen information, and optimization of interoperability with other biodiversity networks. The data exchange format will use XML (Extensible Markup Language), data exchange protocols will use SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and registry services will use UDDI (Universal Description Discovery and Integration). A central web portal will act as a gateway for ANSCIF on the web, providing a home for knowledge summaries and an overview of institution-specific features.

The existence of separate ANSCIF data nodes will be advertised actively. ANSCIF will assist in setup, training and system maintenance, but participating collections and institutions will be responsible for maintaining independent nodes. As an alternative to maintaining separate nodes, participants may collaborate with partner institutions to make their data available from a central server, either pooled with that institution or presented separately. Data ownership and the right to change previously published data will remain with the originating institutions, and specifically with the relevant curators or collection representatives. However, the University of Alberta will maintain backups of all data, in order to comply with funding agency regulations that require long term accessibility of all data. Services and data may also be made available independently of the central portal, to enhance unique or advanced features of individual collections. Where appropriate, ANSCIF will take advantage of existing or emerging computing grids and associated technologies.

Community-wide standards and policies will guide controlled access to sensitive data (e.g., locality information for rare species). Access to basic collection object data will be free to all users of the system, but a charge may be levied for enhanced web services, such as hard copy reproduction of species pages and associated images.

4. Conservation and protection of all ANSCIF primary member natural science collections for future generations, using specimen storage systems (including tissue freezers) that meet modern curatorial standards.

Cabinets, shelves and compactors will be purchased and installed for participating collections to ensure the long-term safety of specimens and objects. Long-term storage equipment for cryostorage of DNA and tissue samples will be installed, including power backup systems, where required.

Storage systems will comply with institutional policies, legislation, and regulations. These include the federal Cultural Property Import and Export Act, and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) "Framework for Researchers Working with University-Based Collections" ( As lead institution the University of Alberta is designated as a Class A institution under the federal Cultural Property Act, and functions within a framework of institutionally approved museum policies and procedures, legislation, standards of museum practice, and a Board of Governors-sanctioned Collections Committee. Institutional policies on destructive sampling from specimens may also be established.

Storage equipment may be deposited on indefinite loan or given to institutions that are not the lead institution, depending on the conditions of the grant through which it was purchased.

5. Empowerment of an innovative community network that sustainably supports research and training in museums and collections across Alberta.

A comprehensive communications plan to be developed by ANSCIF participants will explicitly include museum information users at multiple levels. Participation of user communities will be encouraged to maximize long-term value, sustainability, and growth of collections. Regular taxon-specific or collection-oriented meetings will be held in association with individual collections, and local naturalists will be recruited to assist in producing knowledge summaries. Some examples of current outreach programs combining research and training are at the University of Alberta's Department of Museums and Collections Services (see and the Alberta Lepidopterists' Guild (

Databases will be linked to networks of biodiversity information with national nodes, including CBIF (Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility and CISE (Canadian Information System for the Environment, and global nodes (GBIF, Global Biodiversity Information Facility in order to maximize opportunities for broad comparisons against ANSCIF data. Life-long learning will be facilitated through extensive, accurate, and locally relevant content in our publicly available databases. Broader links to heritage networks world-wide will also be maintained, including those that address museum documentation standards (e.g., the Museum Computer Network, the Canadian Heritage Information Network).

The active involvement of local naturalist groups in ANSCIF will be particularly important. For example, each collections database developed to date at the University of Alberta has incorporated an extensive volunteer system drawn from the graduate and undergraduate student population and the general public (e.g., via the Friends of the University of Alberta Museums, or the Alberta Lepidopterists Guild). Volunteer activities have included species identification, specimen cataloguing, data entry and creation of species pages.

Progress and Transformations

Many of the challenges faced by collections are the same as those that universities deal with as educational institutions. In parallel with the companion paper by Andrews and Blondheim (2004), we use a condensed list of Hanna's (2003) strategic challenges as a set of criteria for evaluating our progress in repositioning collections. Hanna (2003) describes a growing problem of relevance for higher education institutions around the world, as the international economy evolves toward a global network organized around the value of knowledge. He lists a number of stategic challenges that are transforming colleges and universities as they meet this complex, dynamic, global environment. The University of Alberta virtual museum was developed independently from the analysis of Hanna (2003), and so it is instructive to assess the extent to which we anticipated the same challeges.

A number of collections at the University of Alberta and elsewhere in Alberta have made similar transformations in serving their changing communities, but space constraints prohibit a comprehensive treatment. We focus here on a single collection, the University of Alberta Strickland Museum of Entomology, to illustrate how some of the challenges articulated in Hanna (2003) have been met. The Strickland Museum started as the research collection of E.H. Strickland, who founded the Department of Entomology at the University of Alberta in 1922. This department was merged into the Department of Biological Sciences in 1994, but the museum thrives in a building that also contains the largest concentration of entomological researchers on the University of Alberta campus. With about one million specimens, the Strickland Museum is tied with the collection of the University of Manitoba as the largest insect collection in western Canada. Its largest component is beetles, representing the research interests of the Emeritus Curator, Dr. George Ball. However, one of the most active parts of the Strickland Museum is now the Bowman Collection of moths and butterflies, reflecting the recent arrival of the senior author of this article, even though the Bowman Collection was virtually unused since its acquition from the widow of a prominent local collector in 1955. The Bowman Collection is now one of the focal points of the Alberta Lepidopterists' Guild, a group of several dozen enthusiasts from all walks of life who have been the driving force behind the development of the entomology virtual museum (

1. Removing Boundaries.

Until recently, the physical boundaries of collections in many campuses were almost absolute. An extreme example is the collection encountered by the senior author at a major university, where a widely respected researcher sympathetic to the collection never stepped into it in 30 years, even though his office was in the same building. This relationship with colleagues was justified by the museum director in terms of protecting the collection from damage and interference. Now, however, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Through digital imaging and databasing, fundamentally important parts of collections can be opened to anyone on the other side of the planet who has an internet link. Such removal of the barriers that surround collections has resulted in a rapid increase in the use of our collections. At the same time, even more stringent measures can be taken to ensure the physical security of the collections objects. Theoretically, enhanced accessibility could cause the need for enhanced security; however in practice this concern is immaterial to our entomology collections because they have relatively little commercial value. Community members who use the collection and are familiar with it will also police "their" collection. In fact, we have found that the simple act of giving entomology museum door keys to a small group of the most trusted and enthusiastic naturalists who desire regular access to the collection has had an astonishingly positive effect on the number of hours and value of their volunteer services, with no reduction on security.

2. Supporting Entrepreneurial Efforts.

At the University of Alberta, the entomology virtual museum system has supported entrepreneurial initiative and technological adaptations at several levels. For example, a series of small, informal agreements were made with volunteers, and contracts were awarded if funding was available, to build increments of 80-200 species pages at a time, or to database about 5000 or more specimens at a time, giving a total of 1200 species pages and 46,000 specimens databased as of November 2003. Payment and/or uploading the work of volunteers to the internet site was linked to delivery of the completed database or set of species pages and an independent assessment of the quality of the product. This resulted in amicable negotiation at the beginning of each round, with a steady increase in both amount and quality of the result over time. The people who did the work took considerable pride in their pages and sections of the database, which were easily identified in the "authorship" field of species pages and the "data entry" field of specimen databases, and they continued to fine-tune their work on their own time after completion. Writers of species pages and creators of images were encouraged to view the pages as drafts that would give an excellent opportunity for feedback by other naturalists, and to ultimately publish a hard copy of the species pages under their own name as a traditional regional taxonomic treatment or field guide in book form. They were also encouraged to cite their contributions in their CV as an electronic publication.

The entomology virtual museum also recognizes and works within the entrepreneurial culture of research. Most university collections, and the data associated with them, grow initially as targetted research collections developed by individual researchers. Larger, established collections in universities or free standing museums grow by accretion, primarily by receiving collections after the end of the career of researchers. Good relations between collector and museum may need to be cultivated over a period of decades, as any attempt to prematurely acquire and incorporate a research collection into general collection will be met by fierce resistance, sometimes to the detriment of their research collection.

3. Customizing Services.

The last decade has seen a major increase in the number of business services that are customized in universities to allow independent styles of interaction. The search page in the entomology virtual museum has repeatedly been updated and made more effective, starting with a simple, limited design. It is now possible to search by specimen, species page, images, hierarchical lists of names, or specimen number. By providing multiple routes to arrive at the same objects and information, the site accomodates different learning styles and user requirements. Furthermore, programmers worked closely with naturalists and researchers to determine what they needed and could use. In particular, the browse function was developed in response to requests by users, and its intuitive simplicity for visual searching has resulted in it becoming the preferred method of accessing information.

4. Connected and Lifelong Learning.

The distributed, internet-accessible nature of a virtual museum is ideally suited to distance learning and continuous learning. Contributors to the entomology site, such as naturalists and students who write species pages, often find that their participation becomes a journey of personal learning and growth. The lead author of this article requires students to write three to five species pages as a kind of termpaper in a fourth year undergraduate insect taxonomy course. This exercise nurtures skills in accessing both old and new information about species, inferring life history or distributional information from label data, producing high quality images using digital cameras and specialized software, and condensing information about species into an accurate and readable form. A substantial proportion of the student species pages have been of sufficient quality to warrant consideration for inclusion in the virtual museum. Students whose assignments are now publicly available are uniformly positive about producing something that is of such general utility to other users. The process of writing species pages has led students to dig into pre-twentieth century literature in university science libraries, to investigate the names of obscure localities and track down their coordinates, to trace the route of expeditions, and ultimately to enter graduate programs. The experience has also led students to join naturalist groups, such as the Alberta Lepidopterists' Guild, which provide an excellent system of peer mentoring, joint field trips and monthly meetings inside or outside the university.

5. Technology Training.

The computer skills required to write species pages and to database accession information are sophisticated and useful. These skills include imaging with digital camera, construction of composite images with mutliple focal lengths using AutoMontage, image cleanup with PhotoShop, library search skills for information on particular species, and finding and deducing geographic coordinates for localities given on specimen labels. For databasing, data entry in Excel spreadsheets was encouraged, as this affords substantial logistic efficiency. An independently programmed download utility then allows the data to be entered automatically into the larger (MultiMimsy) database.

6. Strategic Alliances.

Mutually supportive alliances with partners have made a major contribution to the development of the entomology virtual museum. Personnel at the Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre (ANHIC), which is responsible for tracking species at risk as well as biodiversity inventories of prospective parks and natural areas, have provided significant amounts of databasing and species pages for the virtual museum. Early databasing templates were reviewed by ANHIC to ensure data field compatibility. ANHIC has also funded travel and accomodation in remote field sites for Strickland Museum and Alberta Lepidopterists' Guild members, in order to survey locations of mutual interest. In addition to access to expertise, ANHIC has benefited from housing of its voucher specimens in the Strickland Museum, and the placment of specimen data in the virtual museum. In addition to cooperation resulting from the development of the ANSCIF proposal in Alberta, the Strickland Museum has strategic alliances with universities, museums, and institutions in other provinces, nationally, and internationally, including CBIF, CISE, the Biological Survey of Canada (part of the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Global Butterfly Information System (GloBIS

7. Measuring Quality.

The quality of the information in the entomology virtual museum is measured in a variety of integrated ways. First, teamwork between student databasers and taxonomic experts, coupled with peer review of species pages, facilitates quality control of data. Second, utilities for building knowledge summaries, such as phenology histograms and dot maps of collection records, make it much easier to detect outlier data points. Third, naturalist groups and societies create conditions where there is there is both motivation (though pride, even competitiveness) and the opportunity to continually improve quality by training. Fourth, easy options are given for feedback or reporting of errors via the web, by listing contact people. Finally, upon funding of the larger ANSCIF project, standards and evaluation committees that are built into the governing structure will have as their mandate discipline-specific and ongoing evaluation of data quality. Most fundamentally, quality in the virtual museum is ensured by establishing a clear trail that indicates who did what, and this encourages the assignment of both credit (and motivation) as well as a sense of responsibility.

8. Open Decision Making.

Development of the entomology virtual museum has involved active communication over four years between a naturalist (G. Anweiler), an assistant curator (D. Shpeley), a programmer (J. Whittome and later also V. Gatnicki), and a researcher (F. Sperling). Furthermore, many decisions on species page format as well as the specimen database were refered for discussion to the Alberta Lepidopterists' Guild, and advice was sought internationally. Development of ANSCIF involved a grant-preparation committee of four people (the first four authors of this article), and an advisory committee consisting of a dozen people including senior, retired administrators, the Executive Director of MACS, new researchers, and department representatives. Meetings or phone conversations with other institutions occurred on an extended bilateral basis. Thus broad representation and open decision making has been essential to the progression of both the entomology virtual museum and the ANSCIF proposal. Regardless of the outcome of our current funding proposals, the exercise of bringing together numerous curators, collection users, and institutions has succeeded in building visibility and support for collections.

Territories, Motivation, and Scale.

Survival is a dynamic balance, whether it refers to individuals, institutions, or civilizations, and depends on an organizational structure that allows component modules to be stronger together than when they are isolated. With the virtual museum pilot projects and with the ANSCIF proposal, we are confident that we have a model that allows effective integration across collections while at the same time strengthening each separate collection. By being sensitive to pre-existing juristictions and constituencies of the instutions that collections are embedded in, we have supported the varied motivations that underlie the creation, curation, and control of collections, regardless of scale. Our aim is not perfection, since that is a futile illusion in a changing world, but rather to survive and thrive in turbulent times, and to serve as a model for other projects to follow under similar circumstances.

The shared vision of ANSCIF is to build a sustainable, dynamic network that highlights the value of our collections to the world, and enhances their use and management. To realize that vision, we have focused on unlocking the legacy of the inherent historical and scientific value of our collections for future Albertans.


The ANSCIF concept could not have been brought to this point without strong, active support from local administrative quarters (L. Frost, G. Kachanoski, W. McBlain, W. Samuel), our advisory committee (M. Caldwell, W. Graham, C. Paszkowski, H. Proctor), participants at other institutions (J. Bain, K. Floate, K. Fry, D. Herbert, D. Langor, W. Nordstrom), and the backing of a group of eminent researchers and administrators (P. Boulanger, W. Cade, P. Currie, J. England, A. Finnamore, R. Geobel, D. Hik, R. Knopff, B. McGillivray, B. Naylor, G. Pemberton, A. Russell, J. Spence). Many volunteer naturalists, most prominent among them G. Anweiler for entomology, have been instrumental in developing both the format and content of our virtual museum pilot projects. Funding to develop the ANSCIF proposal was provided by the Western Economic Diversification fund and the University of Alberta. The entomology virtual museum was funded in part by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (operating grant to F. Sperling), Young Canada Works, Friends of the University of Alberta Musems, and the University of Alberta (Museums and Collections Services, and Biological Sciences).


Andrews, J. and F. Blondheim. 2004. Seize the Day! Museums in the Changing Culture of Universities - A Canadian Perspective. (in press)

Hanna, DE. 2003. Building a leadership vision. Eleven stategic challenges for higher education. EDUCAUSE. July/August 2003. Pp. 25-34.

Figure 1. Proposed ANSCIF management structure. An individual curator may serve in one or more of the following capacities: 1) Governing Board, as the Institutional Representative, and/or; 2) Advisory Board, in one or more Standards and Evaluation Committees, or as a Collection Representative. Persons representing Associate or Adjunct ANSCIF member institutions serve on one or more Standards and Evaluation Committees (SECs) and may be members of the Governing Board. SECs will include all relevant curatorial representaitves in the following disciplinary groups: 1) computing networks, 2) botany and mycology, 3) entomology, 4) invertebrates, 5) vertebrates, 6) palaeontology, 7) geology, 8) anthropology (not including human artefacts).

Figure 2. Species page example. Further information on this common butterfly in Alberta may be obtained at and includes high quality images of top and bottom, full lists and data for museum specimens, references linked to the University of Alberta library system, histograms of adult seasonal flight times, and searchable maps with Alberta records plotted in relation to features such as habitat types and roads.

© 2003 Felix Sperling, Sean Graham, Roisin Mulligan, Catherine La Farge, Janine Andrews