Carnegie Museum of Natural History was awarded a $499,224 grant by the National Science Foundation to preserve collections stored in the museum’s historic Alcohol House and create two new exhibits.
The Alcohol House is a three-story storage space in the museum that is not open to the public. It is home to more than 200,000 reptile and amphibian specimens that are jarred and preserved in alcohol. Researchers and scientists collected the specimens from more than 170 countries over the past 100 years and still use them today for important biodiversity research.
“This is an opportunity to optimize and share one of the museum’s most historic and fascinating collections,” Eric Dorfman, director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said. “The specimens in the Alcohol House are critical resources that help us understand the importance of conservation and the impact human activity has on environments.”
The Alcohol House boasts 148 holotypes (specimens that forever define a species, usually the first or the most complete discovered); it includes specimens of five extinct and 78 critically-endangered species; and it features one of the world’s largest collection of turtles. The collection includes large historical holdings from areas that have suffered deep environmental change or those areas in the midst of great changes, like the tropical forests of Africa, the Amazon, and South East Asia.
“With ongoing habitat destruction and increased limitations on collecting around the world, the value of this irreplaceable resource will only continue to increase with time,” says José Padial, the museum’s William and Ingrid Rea Assistant Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles.
Grant funds will be used to make critical environmental upgrades that will ensure the long-term preservation of the massive collection. The money will also enable the museum to create two exhibits – one inside the Alcohol House for behind-the-scenes tours and a larger exhibit in the galleries.
Museum educators will team up with teens from City Charter High School and Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy to create educational materials for the new exhibits.
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that promotes the progress of science by funding scientific research, education, and projects.