Enhancing museum cataloging procedures using custom-designed data entry applications
Garner, Heath J
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At the Museum of Texas Tech University, the Natural Science Research Laboratory (NSRL) is responsible for the preservation, accessioning, and cataloging of the museum's vertebrate collections. In recent years, the primary tool for cataloging has been WildCat III, an electronic data entry application of the Wildcat relational database management system developed in 1997 for use within in-house and field cataloging. While sufficient for entering data in the field, this particular application, when applied to pre-existing collections or collections other than those generated and cataloged in the field, is inefficient and difficult to use. Each year a greater number of mammal specimens are added to the NSRL collections than in the previous year. Because of this trend and as a result of the transfer of a large number of specimens (nearly 10,000) from another institution in the spring of 2001, it became apparent that a new data entry application for cataloging was needed for collections generated from sources other than NSRL fieldwork. This thesis discusses the role of and necessity for a time-efficient, user-friendly data entry application and ascertains the effectiveness of a database creation strategy by creating and refining a new cataloging database and comparing it to existing applications used for cataloging at the NSRL. The Lynx Project was started to create a better cataloging application that reduces the amount of time it takes to catalog specimens. The Lynx Project first assessed the difficulties and issues affecting speed in the WildCat III data entry application and compared the results obtained from the use of a spreadsheet program, MS Excel, that was set up to mimic a flat database. An assessment of the results and layout designs of both programs was used to create the Lynx Cataloging Application. This new database was subjected to the same use and time trials as both WildCat III and MS Excel and refined where necessary. The overall goal of the Lynx Project is to create an application that provides for faster data input and is more user-friendly for cataloging in-house and transfer specimens.