Specimen Labels

Doug Yanega dyanega at pop.ucr.edu
Sun Sep 12 16:48:45 EDT 1999

>Currently our labels contain : Abreviated latin name, common name (if there is
>one), location where captured, county, date of capture and name of captor.
>Even when printed in 4 point type this does create a large label particularly
>when attached to a 'micro' moth. When viewing a series this can be distracting;
>the label is often larger than the specimen.
>Are you a minimalist or do you believe that all possible information should be
>shown?  What are the chances of a 'universal label' being adopted?

There *is* pretty much a standard for museum labels, but private collectors
do all sorts of things, including labels like you describe, with temporary
data (ID and "common name") on the same label with permanent data
(locality, date).

Here's a label from our museum;

USA: CA: S. Brdo. Co.
Zzyzx Rd., 1 mi SE Hwy 15
on Asclepias erosa, 340m
35°11'N 116°07'W
30-v-1999 D. Yanega

This in 4 point Times (a compact, serif font). 5 lines is maximum label
width (most only require four, when there is no host plant data). Even if
this is bigger than the insect, it is STILL in keeping with the minimum
desirable distance between specimens. Any other info goes on a separate
label or labels. We try to get lat/long to seconds using a GPS whenever
possible, or reading it off a detailed map after the fact. In principle,
you could give ONLY a GPS reading and still enable someone to locate the
exact spot where the specimen was collected, but it's still desirable to
list country, state, county, and a specific place (with elevation if it's
known). Always better to use metric (in the above case, it was exactly 1
mile, so that was simpler), and use roman numerals for the month, or
abbreviations, and give the full year. You want people in other countries
to be able to make sense of the data, and something like 11-9-99 is
completely ambiguous, even to what century. Yes, lots of museums have
specimens from the late 1800's and early 1900's. Of all the data on the
label, the collector's name is the least important thing, unless there's
some particular historical value, or data that SHOULD have been on the
labels that was not included (so someone can come and beat you over the
head to get the data buried in your field notes). Nothing worse than
specimens with someone's secret codes on the labels and no idea where the
book is that decodes them.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

More information about the Leps-l mailing list