Collections, what are they good for?

Naturalia Room
Credit: Espace pour la vie (Johanne Gravel)
Naturalia Room
  • Naturalia Room
  • Female sloth at Naturalia
  • Caiman skull
Collections, what are they good for?

If you ask around, you’re certain to be surprised to learn that a number of your acquaintances collect one thing or another. In this, tastes and interests are as various as the collectors themselves: some will be interested in objects made by humans, like stamps or coins; others will be attracted by plants or animals, and put together vivariums or herbariums for them. The Biodôme also has those collections, both in its ecosystems and in the Naturalia discovery room.

A collection, what for?

Because it’s fun, instructive, and can even be profitable, since certain objects go up in value over time. A world opens us to us when we start a collection. It leads us to do research on a particular subject, and we can learn a lot.

The earliest natural-science collections

The first collectors were amateurs. People housed their collections in “curio cabinets,” which assembled both objects from nature and those produced by humans. It’s thanks to them that museums, as we know them today, exist. In Québec, ninety percent of museum collections come from private donations.

Starting a collection

The most important thing is choosing a subject that interests you. Take my own example. When I was young, I looked at the rocks near where I lived and I could see that they weren’t all the same. So I decided, around the age of six, to collect them and to try to identify them. I noticed that there were traces of shells on some of them, and when I did a little research I learned that these were fossils. This was the start of a great adventure that would lead me to studies in geology.

The work of a collector

Here, at the Biodôme, someone takes care of numbering, cataloguing and ordering the objects in the collection. That information has to be compiled in a database so that the objects someone needs can be easily found. The Biodôme collection consists of close to 5,000 naturalized animal specimens and plants. This collection was acquired primarily thanks to donations from other institutions and from the public. Certain specimens even come from the Biodôme’s live collection. That’s the case with a female sloth born in the wild in 1988 and who lived at the Biodôme from 1990 to 2006. She died at the age of eighteen years and seven months, and in her lifetime gave birth to three babies. You can see her now at Naturalia.

Discover the secrets of the Biodôme’s naturalized-animal collection on display in the Naturalia Room.

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