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Museum Collection Visit Bingo

Museum collections are a core resource of paleontology, far beyond their role in providing fossils for exhibits. Collections, with their fossils and associated records, house primary data for our research, and thus pretty much every paleontologist uses them.

A colleague recently put together a fieldwork bingo card, highlighting all of the fun and not-so-fun aspects of being out in the field. But why should fieldwork get all of the attention? Museum collections deserve their own slice of the pie! Thus, the Museum Collection Visit Bingo Card was born. A few colleagues pitched in their own bingo squares elsewhere on social media, so what you see here is a group effort.

The squares on this bingo card are inspired by years of visits to museums all over the world–some of the items are amusing, some are frustrating, and some are amusingly frustrating. Every institution has its quirks, and it’s safe to say that you can fill many of the squares no matter where you are. It’s also a call for us museum workers to remember our own journeys, and cut a little slack for each other while striving to improve. I certainly have misidentified fossils, and might have once used Elmer’s glue on a fossil in the days before I knew better. Times change, and every museum specimen bears the load of its institutional history. I am also hopeful that this card can start some conversations about the obligations of museums to facilitate research–collection visitors are sometimes powerless in the face of arbitrary and potentially unethical decisions governing specimen access. It’s cathartic to talk about it, while also remembering that most museums do a pretty good job of taking care of their fossils and their collections visitors.

So with that, here’s one version of the Museum Collection Visit Bingo Card! Enjoy!

Bingo card -- see below for full list of possible spaces

Want to generate a new randomized museum collection bingo card? Check out this link to play along at home!

All of the Bingo options and more are below. This is a lot of inside baseball, so if you are curious about what a particular phrase means, please drop a line in the comments!

  • Fossil unavailable to researchers because it is perpetually “under study”
  • Fossil located in collection only after they find out who your graduate advisor was
  • In display case and inaccessible
  • In display case and inaccessible until they find out who your graduate advisor was
  • On loan to researcher for past 25 years
  • On loan to researcher who has been deceased for 25 years
  • Fossil in curator’s office
  • Plaster obscures important anatomy
  • Overprepped fossil
  • Fossil breaks when you touch it
  • Museum wants copyright on any photos you take
  • Museum staff wants co-authorship on any paper you publish
  • Uncatalogued material
  • Part of holotype still unprepared
  • Fossil away on tour
  • Holotype missing
  • #!*%$ ichnotype
  • Theropod bone misidentified as fish cranial element
  • Fossil on exhibit covered in layer of dust
  • Tray of paratypes
  • Holotype on loan
  • Fossil not in collection, no loan tag
  • Fish cranial element misidentified as theropod bone
  • Fossils available when you schedule your visit, suddenly unavailable when you arrive
  • Archival beer flat holding specimen
  • Cigar box housing microfossils
  • Gel capsule congealed around microfossil
  • White-out used to label specimen
  • Sharpie writing on fossil
  • Fossil repaired with Elmer’s glue
  • Specimen in pieces on bottom of specimen tray because it was glued with archival consolidants
  • Green cyanoacrylate glue
  • Radioactive fossil
  • Plaster panel mount
  • Accidentally break a holotype
  • Accidentally drop a whole drawer
  • Drawer falls out of cabinet when you pull it out
  • Specimen inaccessible because forklift has broken down
  • Scary-looking latex mold of specimen in drawer
  • Locality data covers a three-state area
  • Tray of non-diagnostic bone shards lovingly numbered and cradled in archival foam
  • Accidentally locked out of collection after going to the restroom
  • Caught singing in a loud voice when you thought you were alone
  • Fossil suddenly inaccessible when they find out who your collaborators are

Featured image after Marsh 1896.

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