University Museum Awarded Grant to Rehouse Mollusk Collection

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University Museum within the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences was recently awarded a grant to rehouse its mollusk collection.

The nearly $40,000 grant, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will guarantee that the storage of this collection meets the highest standards, as well as making it more accessible to faculty and researchers.

The museum's cosmopolitan mollusk collection contains more than 8,000 lots, each of which may contain many specimens. Funds from the grant will ensure storing this collection in museum-quality cabinets with metal drawers filled with acid-free set-up trays and glass vials to house the specimens.

The museum zoological staff will also reposition the lots in current taxonomic order, update the collection's records database, and correct existing catalog errors. These updated catalog records will be made open to the public, including researchers and other interested parties through iDigBio, a national research database.

The University Museum was one of 206 applicants chosen to receive a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services this year. The museum will match the grant with a $41,000 cost share through contributions of staff time and work, making the project's total investment around $81,000. 

For the past 20 years, The Institute of Museum and Library Services hs been a major source of federal support for the nation's 35,000 museums and 123,000 libraries. Its goal is to encourage libraries and museums to further innovation, cultural and civic engagement and lifelong learning. The institute provides monies for large projects precluded in tight museum and library budgets.

Nancy McCartney, University of Arkansass' curator of zoology, said she is delighted to receive these funds.

"It was the first collection I began working on nearly 40 years ago when we were housed in Vol Walker Hall," she said. "Back then, there were no computers to help with sorting and matching specimens and records, no layout space to integrate disparate collections, and no references for good identifications of most of the specimens. Consequently, further progress was impossible."

Now, however, the University Museum is housed in a facility with state-of-the-art storage conditions, lab space and internet connections which make access to off-campus experts and references possible.

McCartney said because of the collection's lack of scientific organization, the specimens could really only be used for exhibit purposes. For example, specimens from the collection have been used in exhibits at Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale and the Fulbright College dean's office, and will be used in an exhibit at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock next spring. These exhibits highlight the aesthetic and cultural aspects of the collection although the scientific aspects of diversity or evolution were not evident.

"But by going through the 8,000 lots one by one, we have uncovered many rare and interesting species, some of which are extinct due to habitat loss or over collection," McCartney said. "Adding a research component to the collection greatly adds to its value at the university. And I can finally complete this project which otherwise has moved at a snail's pace."

McCartney credits the work of volunteer Gerald Walsh to re-identify the late faculty member David Causey's collection of Arkansas terrestrial snails, and Arkansas State University adjunct professor John Harris' work on more than 600 lots of Unionid bivalves previously collected by the late faculty member Louise Russert Kraemer and others.

"Thanks to their dedication, we have the makings of an Arkansas synoptic collection which will be used by archeologists and biologists for generations to come," McCartney said.

About the 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.


Megan Cordell, communications intern
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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