SwissCollNet is committed to improving the accessibility of natural history collections. A common vision and long-term strategy will promote the use of natural history collections for research, education and society.

Image: OscarLoRo,

Geology and Mineralogy

Integrating Geoscience Collections into Specify Software
Beda Hofmann (Naturhistorisches Museum Bern), Alexis Beck (Natural History Museum Geneva), André R. Puschnig (Natural History Museum Basel), Gilles Borel (Naturéum, Lausanne)

Curators of Earth Science collections in Swiss museums and worldwide use a variety of electronic databases for the inventory of minerals, rocks, meteorites, gems and related objects in their collections. For paleontological collections (fossils), databases closely related to those used for biological collections are used, but for the inventory of non-biological collections a generally accepted solution fulfilling all requirements is currently missing. „Specify“ is an open source software widely used for biological and paleontological collections, but still lacks the ability to handle other Earth Science objects. In the frame of this project the four largest Natural History Museums of Switzerland together with the Specify Collections Consortium (University of Kansas, USA) will develop and test a “Specify Geoscience Platform”, an extension of „Specify“ for Earth Science Collections. The integration of Geoscience Collections into Specify Software will be a key step in homogenizing database contents for Earth Science objects, starting with the four museums involved (Bern, Basel, Geneva, Lausanne), and will initiate further collaborations among other museums allowing an integration of the Earth Science collection contents into unifying databases like the Swiss Virtual Natural History Collection (SVNHC) or GeoCASe.

Perennial conservation and fully digitisation of type minerals specimens of Musée cantonal de géologie, Lausanne
Nicolas Meisser (Naturéum, Lausanne), Marco Antognini (Museo cantonale di storia naturale Lugano), Beda Hofmann (Naturhistorisches Museum Bern)

Living beings constitute the biodiversity with nearly 2 million species discovered, minerals constitute the geodiversity of the Earth, the Moon and the meteorites but with only 5'863 species described (November 2022). These minerals in the form of crystals compose the rocks and ores used since the birth of humanity. They provide the chemical elements necessary for civilizations: gold, copper, iron, aluminium, uranium and now lithium and rare earths for the ongoing energy transition. The presence of minerals on Earth evolves with geological time and even with human activities and the discovery of a new mineral species is always important, because its study allows us to better understand a small portion of the Earth's history. The approval of a new mineral species requires a study that is submitted to the vote of an international committee of specialists. The samples studied, called mineral types, must be preserved in a museum. This project aims at preserving, using modern techniques, and digitizing the mineral types of the geological museum of Lausanne. The techniques that will be developed in this way will benefit other Swiss museums that possess such objects. This project lays the foundations for a complete online catalogue of the mineralogical types of Swiss museums and describes the techniques for the permanent preservation of these precious samples.

Meteorites in Institutional and Public collections of Switzerland
Matthias Meier (Nature Museum St. Gallen), Beda Hofmann (Natural History Museum Bern), Sandra Scherrer (Nature Museum Winterthur), Henner Busemann (ETH Zürich), Christian Sprecher (Naturama Aargau), Christian Püntener (Natural History Museum Fribourg), Edwin Gnos (Natural History Museum Geneva), André Puschnig (Natural History Museum Basel), Silvan Thüring (Nature Museum Solothurn)

Meteorites are true extraterrestrials – pieces of other worlds. Researchers use them to gain and publish fascinating insights into the formation and history of the solar system, including Earth itself. Many museums and universities in Switzerland have small collections of meteorites, which are often in poor shape, in particular in smaller institutions. For example, these meteorites do not have modern names, classifications, and are often not stored in an ideal way. Some very rare and scientifically important meteorites from these collections go unnoticed for decades because no one knows about them! Therefore, the goal of this project is to create a digital, central inventory of all meteorites in institutional and public collections in Switzerland, so that these meteorites become accessible for scientific research. Another goal of the project is to help museum curators to take good care of their meteorite collections. For these purposes, a researcher will be sent to all museums and universities with meteorite collections to compile a complete and modern inventory. The resulting data table will be published Open Access (free to read) in a scientific journal and integrated into the future “Swiss Virtual Natural History Collection” (SVNHC) once it becomes available.