The Care and Keeping of Nature Collections

care_keeping_nature_collectionsJust one more shell. One more stick. A special collection of leaves and acorns which must come home with us. I readily agree. Then we get home and reality sets in. What are we supposed to do with all these items? While I love and appreciate my children’s desire to begin a nature study collection, I tend to hesitate.

We’ve tried collecting sea shells, but without proper storage they chip and break. Bug collecting hasn’t been pretty. Should we really save leaves? As in every other area of learning, if we’re going to make a success of this, it might be time to put a plan into practice. It’s time to organize the care and keeping of our nature collection.

Cleaning Specimen – Not every item we bring home needs a good scrub down. However, certain specimen require care before being put into storage or on display. Thankfully, the National Park Service offers helpful information on care of both herbarium and mammal specimen.

Labeling Specimen – If we can, snapshots are taken of our nature find’s name placards while we’re out and about. At home, Audubon and other guides are pulled to fill in missing information. Small tags are attached, or placed under, each item with pertinent information.

Studying Specimen – Outside of labeling our specimen, nature journaling is of benefit. We might take time to water-color an item or two, taking a moment to describe with our senses the specimen before us. What does it smell like, feel like, and look like? Are there memories attached to this item we wish to document?

Storing Specimen – This is the hard part, especially when limited on space. We’re still struggling to find ways of making a home for our finds. The ideal would be a mid-sized, wooden cabinet with multiple drawers for storage. Until that comes along… For proper storage of delicate items, again the National Park Service offers helpful ideas and tips.

Reducing Specimen – Because we are so limited on space, we can only reasonably store so many of our items. This means some things will need to be placed in the green bin of our trash, with as many items as possible being given to interested friends. (Nature Pal Exchange is a great resource for this.) We’ve even found nature exchange locations which allow our children to turn in their finds for ‘points’ which can be accumulated and exchanged for purchasing other nature items.

For now, we’re having fun going wild, and adding pages to our field trip field guides. With the additional excitement of creating a nature study collection, science is delightful. With a plan in place, caring and storing our specimen has never been better.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the  earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?”
~Job 12:7-10

📢 Chime In!: Does your family have a permanent display for nature study finds?

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8 thoughts on “The Care and Keeping of Nature Collections

  1. We do a lot of nature study in situ – drawing or photographing – especially insects. I know others don’t mind pinning specimens but it has always seemed a waste to me. I have a tray for rocks, and a bowl for shells, and another bowl for seedpods, pinecones and samaras. They are part of my home decorating, free, natural and easily resupplied (when they get dusty). One year we had a fantastic acorn collection that we housed in two cardboard egg cartons. Perhaps not museum quality storage, but it worked. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Surprisingly not really. We just go outdoors. And when rocks and sticks and other stuff finds its way outside, I get rid of it. Heartless hey? I’ve become anti clutter the last decade of homeschooling. Yet I’m rethinking from your ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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