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Beyond exhibits: NM Museum of Natural History & Science putting its collections online

An armadillo is among the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science)

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science has been a resource for New Mexicans for more than 30 years.

For nearly six months, staff has been working on taking its collections online.

It has opened the door to more than 110,000 fossil and biological specimens, as the museum’s collection records are now publicly available through Arctos, a web-based database.

Arctos provides research-grade data to scientists and facilitates public access to the data and images. Users of the database can find out more about plant, animal and fossil specimens of New Mexico without leaving home at

“The transition to Arctos will make the museum’s collection data available to the world, creating opportunities for anyone, anywhere to learn from and add to the scientific infrastructure of New Mexico,” says Jason Malaney, Bioscience Curator for NMMNHS. “We are excited to share the collection information and related research with New Mexicans and hope that this resource will open new doors for collaboration, develop novel educational opportunities, and better engage with the public.”

A fish fossil in the museum’s collections. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science)

Malaney says a backyard naturalist could use Arctos to search the database to find detailed information about wildlife in the area.

“Visitors could also use the database to learn more about their favorite specimens seen at the museum,” he says.

Museum curators say they plan to continue adding to the database – with photographs, 3D links to specimen models, and curator research.

Collections staffers at the museum plan to build on the database by adding their continuous research and discoveries to it.

“Now researchers across the globe can search New Mexico’s own natural history collections to help enhance their scientific curiosities,” he says.

The funding for the database was made possible through an anonymous gift.

Arctos is managed by a consortium of organizations and museums, with data from natural and cultural history collections.

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