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The Cal Acad's Master List

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Galapagos Tortoise<

Opening is less than a month away, 24 days to be exact - energy (and endurance!) is at an all time high. It is not uncommon to see people working all hours of the day and night. It is becoming a joke amongst staff that 90% of their job description falls under other duties as assigned.

Galapagos Tortoise<
Galapagos Tortoise

This has always been an inside joke for me as project management has ranged from animal handling to chocolate tastings during my four year tenure here. My position title finally caught up with my nebulous role: Manager, Special Programming. So when I was asked to help out with exhibits, I was up to the challenge. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!

Right now, exhibits is installing over two hundred specimens into the exhibit cases on the public floor. There is one master list that denotes common name, species name, acquisition source, contact information, dimensions, and status. I was put in charge of updating and organizing that list. This gives the exhibit team more time to clean, catalogue, measure and mount the many specimens before opening day. Specimen mounting is taking place just behind the timeline of exhibit installation. The East Pavilion of exhibit cabinets are almost complete now and the tabletop and wall-mounted cases are being fitted for specimens before the dust has settled from building the overall exhibit framework.

It’s a daunting but very worthwhile task. I get to pour over the master list, sitting in a holding and cleaning room while being stared at by anything from barnacles to a majestic Mountain Lion.

Five of my favorite reptiles have recently relocated to the Galapagos area in the East Pavilion. They are five Galapagos Tortoises mounted on the Tortoise wall. You might not know that Galapagos is Spanish for tortoise and the chain of islands made famous by Charles Darwin were literally named after their largest and oldest residents - the Galapagos Tortoise. One of the perks of double checking information on the Tortoises was noting their metal classification tags. They date back to early 1900's when these specimens were brought back to San Francisco on the Academy Schooner. The Galapagos collection from the Academy voyage revitalized the museum after existing collections were lost in the 1906 earthquake. After the Academy opens to the public, guests will be able to get up close to Academy history in way of the Darwin Finches and Galapagos Tortoises. Some of our collections have never been out on display before. The Finches need incredibly sensitive mounted cases because they are so rare and scientifically valuable.


Helping with this process and seeing the minute detail that is takes to present specimens in a museum setting has been remarkable. I spend a lot of time now going over tiny details but every minute will be worth it when the Academy opens.

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