For major expeditions I kind of do the opposite. I pre-print field labels with the known geography, month, year, field number prefix (e.g., “GUAT1F15-“) and collector then I hand-write in the locality descriptor, specific date, specific field number and abbreviated ecological notes or method (e.g. “FIT” or “fungusy logs”) as I fill in the field notes (typically in the evenings over rum or beer or both). This way I have enough bare-bones data to reconstruct the full label data back at home if the field notebook gets lost. There usually aren’t (m)any discrepancies between the vial labels and the notebook as they are created at the same time by the same person shortly after collection.

I then go through a process of vetting and standardizing the field data in the notebook by creating a “clean” label file in Word as a template, often changing spellings, adjusting altitudes, combining or splitting samples (and field numbers) as necessary, noting the ex post facto corrections in the notes. Often the final specimen label is quite different than what’s in the notebook, so I typically print out a copy of all the labels for a particular expedition and include them in the original notebook, sometimes gluing individual labels next to the original field notes to which they correspond, thus avoiding possible confusion as to which label refers to which potentially heavily edited entry. As I do this I swap out the old field-generated labels with the new ones, tossing the old ones away. In this scenario I just don’t see the value in keeping the original labels.

I use a similar, if more informal, system for in-state collecting. The notebooks for the major expeditions are archived in our library, those with my weekend collecting notes are not.


Zachary H. Falin, Ph.D.
Collections Manager,

Division of Entomology,
KU Biodiversity Institute

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Derek Sikes
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2016 3:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: original field labels - archive or toss?

I'm curious what others who run large entomological collections do with original field labels (the labels written in the field, be they codes or full data, that are replaced by printed specimen /vial labels during specimen processing).
We began a habit of saving these with the idea that sometimes during labeling an error is found or a question raised that might be resolved by consulting the original field labels. (Particularly for cases where no field notes exist).

However, I never anticipated saving these forever but have yet to throw any out a decade after starting this practice. (Perhaps it's a symptom of being a museum curator that I am reluctant to throw anything away that might be of value). We're now considering organizing them by year in folders... or tossing them.


Derek S. Sikes, Curator of Insects
Associate Professor of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK   99775-6960

[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

phone: 907-474-6278
FAX: 907-474-5469

University of Alaska Museum  -  search 347,746 digitized arthropod records<>

Interested in Alaskan Entomology? Join the Alaska Entomological
Society and / or sign up for the email listserv "Alaska Entomological Network" at<>