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Center for Advanced Study

of Museum Science and Heritage Management

Mu s e u m o f Te x a s Te c h U n i v e r s i t y

July 2009

Assessment of the Mammal Collection at the Museo de Zoologa of

the Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador - QCAZ

Editors Statement
The proper care and use of collections is often one of the more difficult aspects of maintaining a museum.
Collections come in many forms and may represent the most sacred and profound of a societys cultural
and natural heritage, or embody the common elements of everyday life. Nonetheless, fine art objects,
natural history specimens, aboriginal artifacts, or ordinary articles require equal special care once they
are placed in the custody of a museum.
The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums (2006) includes a number of sections relating to care and use of
collections. Sections 2.23 and 8.4 are of particular interest:
Section 2.23 states, Preventive conservation is an important element of museum policy and
collections care. It is an essential responsibility of members of the museum profession to create
and maintain a protective environment for the collections in their care, whether in store or display
or in transit.
Section 8.4 addresses the issue of academic and scientific responsibility. Members of the museum profession should promote the investigation, preservation, and use of information inherent
in collections. They should, therefore, refrain from any activity or circumstance that might result
in the loss of such academic and scientific data.
When collections of cultural or natural materials are assembled and maintained in a museums, that status
separates them from other types of objects. The responsibilities associated with maintaining those collections include preservation, research and, in most instances, transfer of the associated data to the related
fields of study in the form of publications. Although the successful fulfillment of these tasks involves an
obligation to collections care and use to ensure that those duties are met, the methods involved in the
process may differ.
To meet this obligation, collections must be prepared, housed, and maintained in a manner giving attention to accepted preservation practices to ensure the items can continue to be used and studied. The
value of collected objects and specimens is lost or substantially reduced if they, or data inherent in them,
are altered or compromised due to neglect. Therefore, individual objects must be kept in a condition as
close to their discipline-defined state of preservation as possible. Furthermore, individual items must be
properly marked, housed, and linked with their descriptive data. Objects that cannot be located, identified, or documented are of minimal value to the institution or researchers.
The basic method of ensuring the proper care and preservation of collections while in museums is preventive conservation. This procedure places emphasis on the collection rather than the object. It focuses on
creating an environment in which objects are protected against agents of destruction or degradation.
Carefully prepared and housed specimens provide information and stimulate ideas for research, and
further investigation of the natural and cultural environs. Research and study of collections encourage
scholars to explore the ways individuals and societies perceive, appreciate, and interact with the world in
which we live. The objects and specimens in museum collections are important to our knowledge about
the world, providing a foundational record of past and present life within defined regions of the worlds
Issues relating to proper stewardship of artifacts and specimens held by museums are of continuing
concern worldwide. Such concerns are not limited to one type of collection, one type of museum, or one
frame of reference. Determining where to establish the baseline for care of collections is often a challenge.
The condition report and other specialized assessment processes are tools used by museums to describe
evaluative initiatives of a specific nature to determine the qualitative, as well as the physical condition, of
incorporated objects. Assessment is a valued and necessary part of proper collections management.
Front Cover: The Zoology Museum of Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, at Quito, currently holds the most
important reference collection of Ecuadorian mammals. Image by Santiago F. Burneo

Assessment of the Mammal Collection at the Museo de Zoologa of the

Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador - QCAZ
Ma. Alejandra Camacho and Santiago F. Burneo
The QCAZ has a mammalian collection of about 10,200 specimens, from which approximately 8,000 were
evaluated by applying the Collection Health Index (CHI). This index is a numerical coding system that determines the curatorial status of the collection based on evaluation units, and reviews the data associated with
the specimens. This index was chosen because it is a qualitative method that not only allows evaluation of
specimens but also the associated data. It allows prioritizing management strategies, determining improvement through time, and comparisons with other collections. The CHI is a numeric descriptor that compares
the number of well preserved specimens to the complete collection holdings. In contrast to other indices, it
does not assume an optimum value of one because that would mean that all specimens would have optimum
conditions and not the normal entropy levels associated with a dynamic collection. The initial resulting value
of the CHI was 0.63. After taking care of some curatorial problems that arose from the evaluation, such as
resolving taxonomic and geographical incongruences, replacing defective storage units, rearranging specimens
by standardized orders, or updating databases, the CHI was raised to 0.79, with over 70% of the specimens
in an optimum curatorial status.
Key words: Collection Health Index, collections, mammals, natural history museums

El QCAZ mantiene una coleccin de mamferos con aproximadamente 10 200 especmenes de los cuales 8
000 fueron evaluados mediante el ndice de Salud de Colecciones (ISC). Este ndice es un sistema de cdigos
numricos que permite determinar el estado curatorial de la coleccin basado en unidades de evaluacin,
y revisar la informacin asociada a los ejemplares. Este ndice fue escogido por ser un mtodo cualitativo
que no solo permite evaluar los especmenes sino su informacin asociada. Permite priorizar estrategias
de manejo, determinar mejoras a travs del tiempo, y realizar comparaciones con otras colecciones. El ISC
es un descriptor numrico que muestra el nmero de especmenes en buen estado curatorial en relacin al
nmero de ejemplares de la coleccin. En contraste con otros ndices, ste no espera un valor ptimo de 1
debido que significara que todos los especmenes estn en ptimas condiciones y no niveles normales de
entropa asociados a una coleccin dinmica. El valor inicial del ISC fue de 0,63. Luego de solucionar algunos
problemas curatoriales tales como incongruencias taxonmicas y geogrficas, reemplazo de recipientes de
almacenamiento defectivos, locacin adecuada de ejemplares, o actualizacin de la informacin en la base
de datos, dicho ndice fue elevado a 0,79, con ms del 70% de los especmenes en un ptimo estado de
Palabras clave: ndice de Salud de Colecciones, colecciones, mamferos, museos de historia natural

Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University


Knowledge of Ecuadors biodiversity, as well as any

other country in the world, has been largely achieved
by the acquisition, management, preservation, and
study of scientific collections deposited in natural
history museums and educational institutions (Winker
2004). These collections are detailed historic archives
of past and present life, as well as records of distribution of species in a defined place and time (King 2001;
Sobern et al. 2003; Simmons and Muoz-Saba
2005). Natural history museum collections and their
associated information are essential to the integrity
of biological knowledge (Simmons 1999; Ponder et
al. 2001). Museum collections house voucher specimens that constitute the basis of our understanding
in sciences such as taxonomy, biodiversity, evolution,
biogeography, ecology, and bioinformatics (Baker et
al. 1998; Krishtalka and Humphrey 2000). Natural
history collections must be correctly managed, based
on considerations of order, growth, and conservation
of specimens and their associated information (Simmons and Muoz-Saba 2003).
The Museo de Zoologa of the Pontificia Universidad
Catlica del Ecuador (QCAZ) is administered by the
Biological Sciences School of the Exact and Natural
Sciences College. The museum is composed of
the Vertebrate Division, which started its activities
in 1969, and the Invertebrate Division which started
in the early 1980s. Presently, the collections hold
approximately 1,600,000 specimens to support
zoological research, to permanently safeguard representative samples of the Ecuadorian fauna, and to
promote education through expositions and through
mass media.
QCAZ is one of the most prestigious Ecuadorian
museums and is recognized at national and international levels. The collection primarily contains
Ecuadorian specimens, including type material and
historical records of species that are known or likely
to be extinct (Coloma et al. 2000; Coloma 2002). Both
divisions holds specimens that are labeled, recorded
in databases, taxonomically arranged, and preserved
according to museum standards. Specimens are
available for exchange and loan according to established regulations.
The subject of this study, the mammal collection
at QCAZ, is composed of approximately 10,200
specimens that cover every province in the country.
The collection is better represented by chiropterans

(74.2%), followed by rodents (19.5%), new world

opossums (2.5%), and carnivores (1.3%). All remaining orders are less than 1% of the total holdings.
About 75% of the described species for Ecuador
(Albuja and Arcos 2007; Tirira 2007) are represented
in the collection. Approximately two thirds of the collection is preserved in 75% ethanol or another fluid
preservative; the other third are specimens prepared
as skins, skulls, and skeletons.
The mammal collection at QCAZ has faced common
conservation problems such as limited access to
collector data, incomplete geographic information,
curatorial problems, and incorrect taxonomic identification of several voucher specimens. For these
reasons, it was deemed necessary to make a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the specimens
held in the collection.
Although natural history museums began as a way
to collect and display interesting objects, currently
concern has been redirected to preservation of these
objects. For this reason, several types of evaluations
have been designed; while some are just inventories
(e.g. Gagnon and Fitzgerald 2004; OConnel et al.
2004), others are detailed and exhaustive (e.g. Cato
1990; McGinley 1993; Moser et al. 2001, Waller and
Simmons 2003). The latter evaluations, although
time consuming, are important because they allow
assessment of the objects condition, quantification
of the results so future monitoring can be designed,
gathering of related evidence about factors that
cause most deterioration, and setting of curatorial
In a collection like the QCAZ Mammal Division, with
a manageable number of individual records (7,984 at
the time of the evaluation), it was determined that the
McGinley Model or Collection Health Index (McGinley 1993; Williams et al. 1996) was appropriate as
an intuitive and straightforward way to evaluate the
general preservation of the collection.
This qualitative technique for collection evaluation
was proposed in 1992 by the United States National
Museum of Natural History (USNM, Washington,
D.C.) at the First World Congress for the Preservation and Conservation of Natural History Collections
(Fernndez et al. 2005). This approach was refined
by McGinley a year later, and renamed as the Collection Health Index (CHI).

Camacho and BurneoAssessment of Mammal Collection at QCAZ

The CHI quantifies the curatorial status of evaluation
units and ranks them in hierarchical levels, making it
possible to determine the curation status of the collection, make comparisons between collections, and
measure its progress in time (Fernndez 2000). These
goals can be accomplished with the proper evaluation of conservation and management policies for the
associated data. The CHI was initially proposed for
the evaluation of entomological collections, ranked
on a scale from Level 1 to Level 10 (McGinley 1993).
Williams et al. (1996) modified the method using a
scale graded from Level 1 to 7 designed to assess
vertebrate collections at the Museum of Texas Tech

University. Later, Fernandez et al. (2005) reinstated

the ten level model and added a Level 0 to evaluate
the specimens in vertebrate and invertebrate collections at Instituto de Ciencias Naturales of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and the Instituto de
Investigacin de Recursos Biolgicos Alexander von
Humboldt in Colombia (Fernndez et al. 2005)
Based on the Fernandez et al. (2005) model, the main
goal of this project was to apply the CHI to the mammal collection at QCAZ to determine the status of the
specimens and to assess and correct any problems

We considered each specimen as the evaluation unit
for this assessment. Curation, identification, storage,
and use of specimens for research were evaluated.
We modified the criteria of the original proposals
(McGinley 1993; Williams et al. 1996; Fernndez et
al. 2005) to make the evaluation levels and categories
consistent with the scale at which the QCAZ mammal
collection was to be analyzed. For this assessment,
Levels 1 and 5 (sensu Fernndez 2005) were divided
into specific sublevels, and evaluation criteria were
assigned for each level in order to cover every curatorial aspect of this collection. Each specific criterion
in each level or sublevel was recorded as acceptable
or unacceptable, coded as 1 or 0, respectively. Code
1 was also used when a specific criterion did not
apply to certain levels of specimen evaluation. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets were designed to record
evaluation codes. This assessment method allowed
consideration of one or more curatorial deficiencies
for each specimen, if necessary. The modified levels
and sublevels were as follows:
Level 0: Presence of Specimen.This level appraised
the presence of the specimen in the collection
or as loans in other institutions. A specimen
was considered missing if it or the proper loan
documents were not found even though it is recorded in the database, containers, or labels.
0 = the specimen is not in the collection.
1 = the specimen is in the collection or is
loaned to another institution.

Level 1: Conservation Status.This level evaluates

the conservation status of specimens.
Sublevel 1.1: Physical Status.A specimen fails
under this sublevel if it has important signals of
decay and cannot be recovered with curatorial
0 = the specimen is in poor physical status and
cannot be recovered.
1 = the specimen is in a good physical status
or presents problems that can be recovered
with curatorial measures, even though these
can compromise long term preservation.
Sublevel 1.2: Damage Risk.This sublevel evaluates if specimens are in risk of chemical or
mechanical damage. The main harmful
agents taken into account are evaporation or
insufficient preservative fluid, light exposure,
excessive numbers of specimens per container, microbiological contaminants, biological
invasion, or ruptures or detachments of parts
of the specimen.
0 = the specimen is affected or at risk of affection of the indicated agents.
1= the specimen is not affected nor at risk of
affection of the indicated agents.
Sublevel 1.3: Mandatory Collection Data.The
specimen fails this criterion if the basic mandatory collection data, locality and date of
collection, are missing.
0 = absence of basic collection data.
1 = basic collection data present.

Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University

Sublevel 1.4: Supplementary Parts.This sublevel evaluates the presence of associated

parts through examination of the specimen or
annotations of the specimens data. Supplementary parts considered are skull, post cranial
skeleton, and tissues. It does not apply to
specimens that are preserved as a whole.
0 = supplementary parts of a specimen, indicated as existent, are not associated.
1 = supplementary parts of a specimen, indicated as existent, are associated.
Sublevel 1.5: Labeling.This sublevel evaluates
if the specimens, supplementary parts, and
storage containers are properly labeled with
complete and readable information.
0 = specimen, container, or supplementary
parts are not correctly labeled.
1 = specimen, container, or supplementary
parts are correctly labeled.
Level 2: Origin of Specimen.This level evaluates
if the specimens were acquired by research
by the museum staff, occasional captures,
donations, or loans from other institutions. A
specimen fails this criterion if the collectors
names are unknown.
0 = collector or collectors names are not
1 = collector or collectors names are known.
Level 3: Determination of Specimens.This level
evaluates if the taxonomic identification is
0 = the specimen has incomplete or potentially
erroneous identification.
1 = the specimen has a complete, updated,
and reliable identification (genus and species),
based on the museum curator or a specialist.
Level 4: Storage.This level evaluates if the specimens are stored appropriately.
0 = the specimen is not stored in an appropriate
1 = the specimen is stored in an appropriate
Level 5: Associated Information.This level evaluates
if the specimens associated data is consistent,
coherent, and updated in the different information depositories (field catalogs, database, and
Sublevel 5.1: Data Consistency.This sublevel
evaluates if the correct collection information

is replicated on the labels, containers, and field

0 = the specimens information is not consistent
in the labels, containers, or field catalogs.
1 = the specimens information is consistent in
the labels, containers, or field catalogs.
Sublevel 5.2: Data Coherence.This sublevel
evaluates if the taxonomic, geographic, sexual,
and morphometric information associated
with the specimens is coherent and present in
information depositories.
0 = the specimens information is not taxonomically, geographically, sexually, or morphometrically coherent.
1 = the specimens information is coherent at
all levels.
Sublevel 5.3: Updating.This criterion evaluates if
the geographic and taxonomic information of
the specimens are up to date.
0 = the geographic and taxonomic information
of the specimen has been updated.
1 = the geographic and taxonomic information
of the specimen has not been updated.
Level 6: Records in Database.This level evaluates
if the specimens are correctly entered in the
collection database. A specimen fails this level
if, in spite of being correctly identified and curated, it is not present in the database.
0 = the specimen is not in the database.
1 = the specimen is in the database.
Level 7: Information Accessible for Inventories.This
level groups all the specimens that have been
properly curated and entered in the database,
and that store indispensable information that
can be extracted to produce faunal inventories
and species lists.
0 = the specimen does not have the indicated
1 = the specimen has the indicated attributes.
Level 8: Supplementary Information.This level
groups all the properly curated specimens
that, besides the basic collection data, have
associated information such as ecological,
ethological, climatic information, detailed collection locality, etc.
0 = the specimen does not have the indicated
1 = the specimen has the indicated attributes.

Camacho and BurneoAssessment of Mammal Collection at QCAZ

Level 9: Collection Usefulness for Research.This
level groups all the properly curated specimens
that have been used for research such as essays, dissertations, or theses.
0 = the specimen does not have the indicated
1 = the specimen has the indicated attributes.
Level 10: Collection Use for Scientific Papers.This
level groups all the properly curated specimens
that have been used in scientific publications,
revisions, or species descriptions. This level
includes type specimens.
0 = the specimen does not have the indicated
1 = the specimen has the indicated attributes.
Fernandez et al. (2005) make clear that Levels 06 are
a curatorial related evaluation and Levels 710 refer
to usefulness of the collection for research.
In addition, synthesis columns of results for each
level were incorporated into the spreadsheets to estimate the result of each specimens evaluation, with
a multiplicative formula. The presence of a score of
0 (unacceptable) in any criterion resulted in an unac-

ceptable qualification for the total of that level. Thus,

every specimen was assigned to the level where the
first 0 score was found.
These data allowed us to obtain a collection profile
that summarized the total of all evaluation units in
each level. This information can be useful to establish
collection management priorities, to keep track of
collection maintenance through time, and to compare
conservation status among different types of preservation (fluid preserved specimens, dry specimens,
vital tissues, etc.). In addition, this methodology could
be applied to different taxa.
During the evaluation some obvious maintenance and
conservation problems of specimens that needed
urgent attention were resolved. The curatorial status
of every specimen was assessed in order to place
them in a particular level according to the Collection Health Index. With this information a Collection
Profile was obtained both before and after resolving
curatorial problems.
The final results of all the specimens in each level
allow calculating a CHI which is the sum of Levels
3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 divided by the total number of
evaluation units (McGinley 1993; Fernndez 2000).

Results and Discussion

A total of 7,984 specimens were assessed between
December 2005 and August 2006. The collection
profile obtained after taking curatorial measures to
resolve problems resulted in a considerable reduction
in the total number of specimens scored at levels related to curatorial issues, as well as the increment of
specimens in levels related to the usage of specimens
for research, in comparison with the initial collection
profile (Fig. 1). For instance, there were fewer specimens rated at Level 1 (Conservation Status), Level 4
(Storage), and Level 5 (Associated Information).
Some of the curatorial problems at Level 1 that were
possible to fix during the study included refill of
evaporated preservation fluid; change of defective
storage containers or plastic lids; redistribution of
specimens that were crowded together in containers; remediation of specimens infested with fungi;
addition of readable acid-free labels; replication of
correct data on labels, containers, or in the database;

and recording of missing specimens or associated

There was an increase in the total number of specimens in Level 3 because many of those formerly
located in Level 1 were relocated to this level at the
end of the evaluation. The resolution of curatorial
problems allowed us to consider such specimens in
the next level at which they presented deficiencies
(Fig. 1).
More than one hundred specimens at Level 2 did
not have the original collectors information, making
it difficult to determine their origin. However, this is
not obvious in the collection profiles because almost
all of them had deficiencies at Level 1 because the
specimens also had conservation problems that
could not be resolved easily.
Level 4 (Storage) related problems were completely
resolved resulting in the proper relocation of all evalu-

Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University

ated specimens. Resolved Level 5 (Associated Information) problems included correcting and updating
taxonomical or geographical information.

Figure 1. Collection profiles before and after the resolution

of curation-related problems.

The increase in the number of specimens with deficiencies in Levels 7 (Information Accessible for Inventories), 8 (Supplementary Information), 9 (Collection
Usefulness for Research), and 10 (Collection Use for
Scientific Papers) is due to the resolution of curatorial
problems in specimens that were formerly ranked in
lower levels. Since Levels 7 to 10 evaluate the use
of specimens in different types of scientific research
(Fernndez et al. 2005), these levels were assigned to
only specimens whose curatorial status was correct
and that were used actively in scientific research.
After solving curatorial problems, we determined that
15% of specimens corresponded to Level 7; 38% to
Level 8; 9% to Level 9; and 3% to Level 10.
An indication of health and usefulness of a collection is the use of its specimens in research and the
publication of scientific papers. Well preserved
and documented specimens are more suitable for
research purposes. At least 3,100 specimens have

Table 1. Publications that reference QCAZ specimens until August 2006.


Taxonomic Group






Boada et al

Mastozoologa Neotropical

Soricidae, Mephitidae,

Voss (2003)

American Museum Noviates



Baker et al.


Fonseca and
Pinto (2004)





Velazco (2005)




Velazco and
Solari (2005)

Mastozoologa Tropical


Didelphidae, Phyllostomidae, Molossidae, Vespertilionidae, Cricetidae

Lee et al.

Occasional Papers
Museum of Texas Tech

Report on a Mammal Survey of the Cosanga River

Drainage, Ecuador


Didelphidae, Soricidae
Phyllostomidae, Vespertilionidae,
Felidae, Cricetidae

Lee et al.

Occasional Papers
Museum of Texas Tech

Results of a Mammal Survey of the Tandayapa Valley,


Authors / Year



Anderson and
Jarrin (2002)
Muchhala, N.,
and Jarrn, P

American Museum Noviates

A New Species of Spiny Pocket Mouse (Heteromyidae:

Heteromys) Endemic to Western Ecuador


Flower Visitation by bats in Cloud Forest of Western


Lasso and Jarrin (2005)

Muchhala et
al. (2005)

Occasional Papers
Museum of Texas Tech
Occasional Papers
Museum of Texas Tech
Acta Chiropterologica 2005
Journal of Mammalogy

Notas ecolgicas y reproductivas del murcilago rostro

de fantasma Mormoops megalophylla (Chiroptera:
Mormoopidae) en San Antonio de Pichincha, Pichincha,
A New Species of Thomasomys (Rodentia: Muridae)
from Eastern Ecuador, with Remarks on Mammalian
Diversity and Biogeography in the Cordillera Oriental
New Bat of the Genus Lophostoma (Phyllostomidae:
Phillostominae) from the Northwestern Ecuador
A new Lophostoma (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae) from
the Amazonia of Ecuador
Diet variability of Micronycteris megalotis in pristine and
disturbed habitats of Northwestern Ecuador
A new species of Anoura (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae)
from the Ecuadorian Andes
Morphological Phylogeny of the Bat Genus Platyrrhinus
Saussure, 1860 (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae) with the
Description of Four New Species
Taxonoma de Platyrrhinus dorsalis y Platyrrhinus lineatus (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae) en Per

Camacho and BurneoAssessment of Mammal Collection at QCAZ

Table 2. Holotypes and paratypes in the QCAZ mammal collection.


Lophostoma aequatorialis
Lophostoma yasun
Heteromys teleus
Lophostoma aequatorialis

been used in dissertation and thesis studies in the

Biological Sciences School at PUCE and other institutions, and at least 661 specimens have been
used in published research articles in national and
international journals (Table 1). However, only 733
specimens (9% of the total evaluated) and 236
specimens (3%) were located in Level 9 (Collection
Usefulness for Research) and Level 10 (Collection
Use for Scientific Papers) respectively because they
fulfilled optimum curation status and had correct and
updated associated data. In Level 10, two holotypes
and three paratypes were included (Anderson and
Jarrn 2002; Baker et al. 2004; Fonseca and Pinto
2004; Table 2).
Before the evaluation, the Collection Health Index
was 0.63, but after solving curatorial problems the

2384, 6071

Baker et al. 2004
Fonseca and Pinto 2004
Anderson and Jarrn 2002
Baker et al. 2004

CHI improved to 0.79. This demonstrates how we

can improve collection management through this
assessment procedure. The results also reflect
substantial changes in management since 2001 such
as the creation of the Mammalogy Curator position,
collaborations with foreign institutions, increase of
dissertation projects, more organized field trips, and
acquisition of international experience by our staff.
A CHI value must be analyzed for more than its
simple mathematical estimation (J. E. Simmons,
pers. comm.). A high or improving CHI value would
reveal that an important percentage (at least 70%)
of specimens are rated between Levels 6 to 10, as
well as that collection management is improving over
time. It may seem reasonable to think that, in theory,
an optimum collection profile is one that shows all

Table 3. Taxonomic groups represented in the QCAZ mammal collection compared with the Ecuadorian mammal fauna
(Tirira 2007) in parentheses. Total number of records and percentage of each group related to the total holdings are
indicated. a includes introduced taxa and foreign donations. e extinct taxa.
Collection specimens

210 2.63%


30 0.38%


3 0.04%


23 0.29%


34 0.43%


77 0.96%
Rodentia a
75 (106)

1493 18.70%
Lagomorpha a


19 0.24%


33 0.41%
131 (143)

5896 73.85%
Carnivora a

107 1.34%
Perissodactyla a


12 0.15%

40 0.50%


4 0.05%
Pilosa e


2 0.03%
Probiscidea e


1 0.01%

52 (48)

161 (196)

298 (382)


Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University

of evaluation units in Levels 6 to 10; however, this

would actually describe a collection that has been
static and not actively used for research. In the case
of QCAZ, this has been true for some taxa such as
Soricomorpha or Paucituberculata that have not been
used primarily because of the lack of specialists in
the groups. Fernndez et al. (2005) proposed that
an ideal collection profile will be one where 30%
of evaluation units are rated at Levels 1 to 5 and the
other 70% are in higher levels. This 30% of specimens rated in lower levels represents an expected
degree of entropy in a dynamic museum. Before solving curatorial deficiencies in the mammal collection at
QCAZ, 44.2% of specimens were in Levels 1 to 5, and
55.8% were ranked in higher levels. After correcting
the curatorial problems, the percentage of specimens
ranked in Levels 6 to 10 increased to 71.4%. Currently, the mammal collection has an ideal profile
as defined by Fernandez et al. (2005)
It is important to note that 4% of cataloged specimens were missing. Although their information is in
the database, either the specimens or any loan documents that would justify their absence were not found.
Even though lost specimens are not common in the
QCAZ mammal collection, this is usually associated
with large collections from researchers that used
their own management protocols. New museum
procedures and policies and trained staff are currently
managing accession and storage of specimens in a
standardized and appropriate manner.
Taxonomic group profiles and CHIs were also obtained from the most representative groups in the
collection. Chiroptera and Rodentia were the groups
with the best representation in the collection. The
Order Chiroptera had 5,896 specimens (Table 3). The
CHI increased from 0.66 to 0.81, with a significant
proportion of specimens ranked at Levels 6 to 10.
After correcting curatorial deficiencies, 74% of the
specimens were moved to Levels 6 to10 (Fig. 2a).
Our collection of Rodentia had 1,493 specimens
(Table 3). The CHI increased from 0.55 to 0.77 due
to improved curation. The percentage of specimens ranked in upper levels rose from 40% to 62%
(Fig. 2b), and important difference from the collection
profile of Chiroptera.
More voucher specimens of Rodentia were in Level
1 compared to Chiroptera. In the QCAZ collections,
most rodents are prepared as dry specimens (60%
of the rodent collection is prepared as dry skins in
contrast to only 26.5% of the bats). Because of their

nature, these specimens are subject to structural

damage due to the storage environment, especially
in high seasonal humidity conditions present in Quito.
During the assessment, we noticed that dry skin
preparation had more curatorial problems, especially
those related to infestations by fungi.
The Didelphimorphia, Carnivora, and Primates are
also well-represented groups in the QCAZ collection
and have a number of voucher specimens (Table 3).
However, these orders had collection profiles with no
important differences before and after the resolution

Figure 2. Chiroptera and Rodentia Collection profiles

before and after resolving curatorial-related problems.
Overall CHI values are also shown.

a. Chiroptera

b. Rodentia

Camacho and BurneoAssessment of Mammal Collection at QCAZ

of curatorial problems. This was due to their relatively
lower number of specimens compared to Rodentia
and Chiroptera. Other orders showed a similar trend
at a smaller scale.
Enhancement of general collection management,
as well as verification, correction, and updating of
database information, improved the suitability of the
mammal collection materials for research, with more
than 70% of specimens in appropriate curatorial
condition. We feel that applying the CHI evaluation
in the mammal collection of QCAZ has allowed us to
identify and resolve problems that otherwise could
not have been done obvious. We have implemented
new and improved policies that will prevent those
problems in the future. Most of this was possible
because of the small size of the collection which allowed for a specimen by specimen revision. Moser et
al. (2001) also used a specimen by specimen exami-

nation of a portion of the National Museum of Natural

History (NMNH) zoology collection. According to
their discussion, this resulted in a greater resolving
power of the process and more meaningful data. For
vertebrate collections like those in the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum of Natural
History, or the National Museum of Natural History,
that have hundreds of thousands or even millions of
specimens, this approach would be unrealistic, and
therefore not as efficient in terms of staff effort and
work priorities.
Another way to approach this method in larger collections would be to evaluate each container (jar, bag,
box, drawer) rather than each individual specimen;
this method would be effective for finding and solving curatorial problems, but taxonomic, geographic,
morphometric, and collection information mistakes
potentially could be missed.

The qualitative assessment of the mammal collection
at QCAZ resulted in the determination of the curatorial
status of specimens, and allowed us to correct and
update associated information. This process guaranteed that collection data will be used in research
accurately. Initially, a significant percentage of the
collection had common curatorial deficiencies. After
these problems where resolved, 71.4% of the specimens were ranked as appropriately curated. The CHI

showed an important increase, demonstrating that

resolving curatorial problems should be the main
priority in natural history collections. Comparisons
between large groups in the collection determined
that specimens prepared as dry skins, such as those
in the Rodentia, presented more Level 1 problems.
This type of preparation method requires constant
curatorial attention, especially in high humidity conditions.

QCAZ staff assisted with the evaluation of the collection; we thank especially Gabriel Mosquera,
Salime Jalil and Viviana Narvez for facilitating this
assessment. John E. Simmons guided us through
the process of collection evaluation and commented

on the manuscript of this paper. Also, Dr. Clifford

Keil reviewed and commented on the manuscript.
Petrobrs Energa-Ecuador and the Yasun Biodiversity Project provided the necessary supplies for
collection management improvement.


Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University

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Camacho and BurneoAssessment of Mammal Collection at QCAZ

Addresses of Authors
Mara Alejandra Camacho
Museo de Zoologa
Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador
Av. 12 de Octubre y Roca
Quito Ecuador

Santiago F. Burneo
Museo de Zoologa
Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador
Av. 12 de Octubre y Roca
Quito Ecuador


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Museology, Museum of Texas Tech University, Number 12
Editor-in-Chief: Gary F. Edson, Executive Director, MoTTU
Assessment of the Mammal Collection at the Museo de Zoologa of the Pontificia Universidad Catlica
del Ecuador - QCAZ
Ma. Alejandra Camacho and Santiago F. Burneo
ISSN: 0149-175X
Museum of Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-3191 USA
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