Computer Catalogue

SUMMARY: Peter Fenton, technician at the Royal Ontario Museum, describes how information about fossils is kept for future scientific studies. (2:08)

Peter Fenton sorting fossils
DESCRIPTION: Peter Fenton sorting fossils

"Once you've gone to all the trouble of acquiring a fossil, whether it's through exchange, through collection, or whatever means, and you've found it a nice safe home in the collections room, that's only part of our job. The other thing we have to do is find a safe home for all of the information that goes along with that fossil."

Peter Fenton on camera
DESCRIPTION: Peter Fenton on camera

"Because a fossil by itself – without that information – loses a great deal of its scientific importance. So the information that goes with that fossil, that's all vital information that gives us the data we need to actually study it properly."

Peter Fenton picks up large ledger
DESCRIPTION: Peter Fenton picks up large ledger

"So in the old days we used to just manually write all of the information in a large book. The catalogue register. All hand-written. And then we'd also generate file cards."

Close-up of file cards
DESCRIPTION: Close-up of file cards

"So in the good old days if you tried to look up some information on a particular fossil you'd have to go to the book or to one of these cards. On that we find just about all the information we need."

Peter Fenton on camera
DESCRIPTION: Peter Fenton on camera

"Of course, things are done differently nowadays. We use computers. The same information is stored on them. All the same information. The great thing of course with a computer is we can find information out virtually instantaneously."

Fenton working on computer
DESCRIPTION: Fenton working on computer

"A search … for instance, let's say I wanted to find all of the Marrella fossils Des Collins collected in the upper half of the Walcott Quarry in 1982. That, going through the old method, the books and the file cards, could take an hour."

Close-up of computer screen
DESCRIPTION: Close-up of computer screen

"With a computer of course, we're dealing with a second of time."

Peter Fenton on camera
DESCRIPTION: Peter Fenton on camera

"So it makes life so much easier when we are actually trying to work with the information we've got. I guess unless the server is down. Then you can still go back to your original paper records."

Closing catalogue register
DESCRIPTION: Closing catalogue register

"because believe it or not, in spite of the fact we now rely on the computers we still keep all of our paperwork."

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