Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A really great Collection Forum paper

was published last month by Amy Davidson and Greg Brown. It is about the practical use of Paraloid B-72 in the paleontology preparation and conservation lab, and is precisely the paper I've been waiting my whole career for someone to write. I'm very glad it was Amy and Greg, this is THE reference that anyone who handles fossils must read. It thoroughly covers methods for application, manipulation, and storage of Paraloid B-72, and provides excellent justification for the selection of B-72 in many paleontological applications.  I've very excited to include this paper as required reading in my Paleontological Laboratory Methods class next semester. Even though I've used this material frequently for more than a decade, I still learned a lot reading their work. There is also another excellent paper in this edition on collections management by some of my UT colleagues. But actually, this post isn't really about these great papers.

I have been waiting to provide a review of "Paraloid B-72: Practical tips for the vertebrate fossil preparator" since I got a sneak peak of the paper in April at the Seattle FPCS meeting during Amy's Paraloid B-72 workshop. My hard copy of Collection Forum arrived in my mailbox in early May, but I wanted to hold off until the PDF was available on the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (www.spnhc.org) website so that I could link to it. Current year PDFs of Collection Forum are only available to SPNHC members, which certainly makes sense as a method for encouraging membership. But as of tonight, the 2011 link is the most recent available. Even so, I wasn't too inclined to gripe about that, until I heard, much to my dismay, that Collections Forum may be going digital only. I hope this isn't true. I realize that $25 is very inexpensive for a membership that includes a journal subscription. But I would be extremely willing to pay more, if this were a question of financial hardship for the organization. For the same reason I still buy CDs and DVDs. Even Bluray discs. I'm a museum professional. I'm astounded that a museum collections organization would abandon paper for an untested technology like PDFs. I'll wager that only one of them will be in an accessible format 300 years from now. Plus, I'm over the age of 19. I can't read long papers on a computer screen. Sadly, when I finally print out that PDF, it likely won't be on archival paper.

The immediate question of access is still an interesting one. I bet the overwhelming majority of people who absolutely need to read this paper are not members of SPNHC. Though they should be. The goals of this organization are worthy, and I want to support them. I have several papers and books in progress right now, and I was sure that SPNHC was the venue for at least some of them, but now I question whether that is true. The goal of authorship is dissemination of information, and while none of our citation rankings are going to be sky high for these topics, if I want my colleagues to have as ready access as possible to my work, I think asking whether Collection Forum is the place for them might yield interesting discussion. At the least, I'd expect PDF author copies for immediate dissemination. Additionally, even though all back issues are available as PDFs, I didn't see it in JSTOR and neither of my institutions have a subscription to Collection Forum. And one of these is a Museum Studies program.

However, by all means be encouraged to join and support SPNHC! Amy and Greg's paper alone is worth the 25 bucks.

Davidson, A. and G. Brown. 2012. Paraloid B-72: Practical tips for the vertebrate fossil preparator. Collection Forum 26(1--2):99-119

Molineux, A. et al. 2012. GIS, the key to collections management of a large research archive. Collection Forum 26(1--2):60-69


BJ Nicholls said...

I'd personally far rather have access to a pdf than a journal paper that's typically limited to black and white and that crams too much type into too small a space to reduce printing costs. PDFs can easily be printed and even on superior archival paper using pigment inks if you're worried about long term file format viability.

Mark Wildman said...

I tend to agree with Matt here. I know most of us have a vast array of PDF's at our disposal and these are ideal for quick reference. However, they are no substitute for the written word in journal or paper form and I confess that a lot of my PDF's are indeed printed out for ease of use. Perhaps not very green or cost affective but there you go.

Chris said...

FYI, even if Collection Forum goes digital (which is very likely) there will still be a print-on-demand option which will allow users to purchase either individual articles or a whole edition in printed form. The aim of e-publication is to increase accessibility; we'll be able to tag and index articles to make them easier to find and access on-line.