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The repository holds a vast collection of fossil and geological specimens. Many of these specimens have their original labels in the tray with them, and its not unheard of for one specimen to have 3 labels and a handful of scraps of paper with various notes! The specimen labels run the gamut from century-old cards written in a flowing script to dot-matrix printed slips, up to primary labels printed with laser and inkjet printers. The labels are as important as the specimen itself. These labels place specimens within their proper position in the stratigraphic continuum of the fossil world, as well as putting them in context of the history of the collections and University. Without this information, the specimen is akin to a puzzle piece found under the couch- you know what it is but you don't really know where it belongs


You will run into several different types of specimen labels. Listed below are the most common labels you can expect to come across while in the collections. In order to understand the labels referred to in the protocols, the different labels are broken down by category.



 Primary Specimen Labels:

  • Detailed labels with some combination of taxon, catalog number, collection acronym (or collection abbreviation) and other information filled out.
  • Reference labels in which the only collection acronym and catalog number are given. These can be either printed NPL numbers, or a historic label with just a collection acronym and catalog number.



For examples of some of the Primary labels found in the collections,

click here.


Click on the hotlinks for additional information and images.

 Secondary Specimen Labels:

  • Labels used to indicate where a specimen is currently located, if it is not in the expected position within the collection. Examples include: On Loan, Exhibit, Oversize, Missing, Permanent Loan, and Type.
  • Each type of label is printed on colored paper, has its title printed on it at the top, a place for listing the catalog number and date the label was made, as well as details specific to the title.
  • Some labels prior to 2013 are no longer used. Research on Campus and Exhibit labels have been collapsed into Purpose of Loan.

For examples of some of the secondary labels found in the collections,

click here.

Current (2015) Specimen Labels

  • Migration from our many Access databases to a single database allowed us to solve some of the issues with non-standard data standards that were present.
  • Labels have been redesigned to improve 'at a glance' data, improving efficiency of finding specimens as well as assisting the photographic inventory initiative.

Access generated labels

  • These Primary Specimen Label is the specimen label generated using data from Access databases, or other 'pre-Specify' databases.
  • In addition to the information included in current label design, these labels also include determination information, a bar code and label printing information.

Historic Labels

  • These are any field label, note from a specimen tray, older computer generated specimen label (printed on a dot matrix printer), or handwritten specimen label.
  • Some labels are over 100 years old. They are often brittle or otherwise deteriorating, so must be handled carefully.
  • Historic labels at times specifically say which collection they are part of, but other times there is no indication.
    1. Also common are collection acronym that conflicts with the collection name on the label. In these cases, the collection acronym and specimen number is always given precedent.

Reference Labels

Printed NPL numbers
  • NPL numbers reference the general NPL catalog.
  • This is not a physical catalog, but a database detailing what information is associated with which catalog number.
  • These labels are often printed on slips of heavy paper, and placed in the tray with a specimen. 
Historic, incomplete labels
  • Much of the historic material has detailed information on the label, but sometimes you will come across a BEG, P, WSA or UT label with nothing but a catalog number on it.
  • These numbers refer to an entry in the physical catalogs.
    1. Much of the data in the catalogs was entered into an Access database in the early 2000's, and was migrated through to the Specify database.

On Exhibit

  • Prior to 2013, Exhibit labels were filled out by hand.
  • Indicated that a specimen has been borrowed for exhibit or other approved display purposes.
  • Most, but not all, exhibit specimens are at the Texas Memorial Museum or Jackson School of Geo-sciences.

Label color: yellow


  • Loan Labels are generated through the reports tab in Specify.
  • The 'Purpose of Loan' determines the label color.
  • Labels have 2 parts
    • the in-house label that stays in the drawer to mark where the specimen is normally stored.
    • specimen label that stays with the specimen, taking the place of the original label.

Label Color:

    • Pink: Educational, Research, Destructive, and Other
    • Yellow: Research on Campus, and Exhibit


  • Over the 100+ years of active use, things in the collections occasionally get misplaced.
  • Frequently its a matter of  a specimen getting jostled out of its tray and landing in its neighbors or someone not putting a specimen moved label in the drawer.
  • Not a cause for panic, but inform the Collection Manager.

Label Color: White


Specimen Temporarily Moved

  • Indicate a specimen is in a different location, but not off-campus, for a short period of time.
  • Pulling specimens for photography, conservation or preparation are examples of when these labels are used.
  • 2 parts to these labels-
    1. The left half is put in the tray with the specimen, and the right side is to be left in the drawer.
    2. When the specimen is put back, these labels are pulled out, stapled together and given to the Collection Manager

Label Color: White

Specimen Relocated

  • This label is created to record the specimen numbers of specimens that have been removed from a particular drawer.
  • This label will remain in the drawer from which the specimen was removed. 'Moved' labels tell collections people where the specimens are now located.
  • Nobody should ever move a specimen without editing the database record first. (click on the Specimen Relocated header for instructions)