Is there a specific name for a lab where animal specimens in specimen jars are kept?
January 10, 2011 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there a specific name for the labs where animal specimens in specimen jars are kept?

The one at the Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre in London is just referred to as the "Spirit Collection", which is strangely and wonderfully beautiful, but it made me wonder if there was also an actual specific term for this sort of lab.
posted by dng to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
'Round these parts we folk like to call 'em anatomy labs. Zoology labs if you wanna get fancy.

Particular collections of specimens might have cool, specific names, but I, personally, have never heard of the actual lab being called anything interesting.
posted by phunniemee at 6:07 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

If your question was about plants, the correct answer would be a Herbarium. But since it is about animal specimens I don't think there's a really fancy name other than a Biological or Scientific Collection.
posted by cnanderson at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

What do you mean 'zoology' if you want to get fancy? ;) Anatomy--or comparative anatomy, or veterinary anatomy--is perfectly fancy.

Seriously, though: if you are referring to a museum collection, they'll usually call it part of the natural history collection, maybe name it for a donor or the collector or a famous scientist affiliated with the museum or educational institute. (Although...I like the 'Spirit Collection.' Nowadays we would call it the Alcohol Collection instead, which kind of ruins the poetry.)

A 'teaching' collection--specimens currently used for classroom education--is usually referred to as such, though if you give me enough money and/or specimens, I will name them after you in some official manner. Well, *I* won't. I will petition the university nicely and mention your generosity and someone much more important than me will name things after you or dedicate them to you.

That being said, when I come back from a week of vacation in the summer, and discover the coolers have gone down at some unknown time betwixt my departure and return, I refer to the whole lot of specimens as The Pit Of Despair.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:24 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Labs with live animal are sometimes called this. Maybe it applies.
posted by vivid postcard at 6:29 PM on January 10, 2011

Nope. Vivariums are housing facilities for live research animals. (Which is the 'viva' part of the word.) It is absolutely not cool to have prepared/preserved specimens in a vivarium.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:32 PM on January 10, 2011

Ah. Of course.

Kunst-und Wunderkammern? But bigger? And only kind of...?

(I don't know. obviously.)
posted by vivid postcard at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2011

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History usually just calls their biological collections preserved in alcohol the alcohol collections, or, more informally, the "wet collections". They are stored in Pod 5 (i.e. storeroom # 5) at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center.

The alcohol collections in museums include vertebrates and invertebrates, so encompass a wide range of specimens.
posted by gudrun at 7:14 PM on January 10, 2011

The one at my University is called the Pathology Museum. So seconding museum or collection, and pathology may be another word to look at (although I don't know how accurate it is for an overall identifier).
posted by shelleycat at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2011

the alcohol collections, or, more informally, the "wet collections"

And this is probably also the source of the name "spirit collection," however accidentally beautiful the homonym meaning is.
posted by MsMolly at 7:28 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I'd wager that the Darwin Centre is using the term "Spirit" in the sense that the specimens are preserved in alcohol, as opposed to the theological meaning.
posted by cnanderson at 7:31 PM on January 10, 2011

Oops, didn't preview.
posted by cnanderson at 7:32 PM on January 10, 2011

At the Natural History Museum where I work, we refer to any of the specimens preserved in alcohol as "wet collections" and dry ones as "dry collections." Specific collections are frequently referred to by the name of the collector, or the locality where they were collected. "Teaching collections" include specimens that look cool, but lack data (such as date they were collected, where they were collected, etc.) so they are not useful for scientific study. In a more general sense, we also refer to each department's individual collections, which each usually have their own "collection room", i.e. the Crustacea Collection or the Echinoderm Collection. These names all refer to the specimens themselves though, rather than the collection rooms (not "labs") where they are kept. Is that what you are asking?
posted by Dilemma at 9:49 PM on January 10, 2011

Lot of different departments will have their own collections.

A herpetology department may have a collection of preserved snake specimens whereas a "traditional" zoology department may have a marsupial professor who has a bunch of preserved marsupials and an avis prof who specializes in ostriches and who has a big collection of those.
posted by porpoise at 10:52 PM on January 10, 2011

Is that what you are asking?

Not exactly (my badly worded question was mostly wondering whether there was a similar term to herbarium, or whatever, the answer to whhich seems to be no), but its all helpful and very interesting.

Thanks everyone.
posted by dng at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2011

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