First words

Hello, and welcome to the Pinning Block!  Here we’ll share stories about the Triplehorn Insect Collection:  the people who built (and build!) it, the researchers who use (and sometimes abuse) it, the visitors who delight in it, the long-term friends of the collection who support us, and, of course, the exciting work we do.  Since we are an insect collection, a lot of what we will blog about is related to the care of the collection, which we broadly call curation.

For those who are not familiar with it, a pinning block is used to position an insect specimen, as well as the labels associated with it, at uniform heights on an insect pin.  It is a beautifully simple and indispensable tool in an insect collection.

Pinning blocks are used to position specimen labels at uniform heights on the insect pin.

Pinning blocks are used to position specimen labels at uniform heights on the insect pin.

Not only is the appearance of the collection vastly improved when all the specimens and labels are mounted at a uniform height on the pins, but the preservation of the specimens and the accessibility of the collection is greatly enhanced as well. And this is what insect collection curators strive most to do: to keep their specimens safe and make their collections more accessible to the people who need to study them.

Over the last few years, warm, wooden blocks have been replaced by cool and apparently indestructible pieces of steel, cut with precision tools. But independent of the material it’s made from, the pinning block is a metaphor for the attitude we have towards our work: simple, clean, and to the best of our capacity, efficient.

This blog will hopefully be a collaborative effort of the faculty, staff and students associated with the collection. Our goal is to share the joys and tears, the excitement and drudgery of the work we do, but ultimately to share how biological collections in general, and the Triplehorn Insect Collection in particular contribute to the university’s missions of teaching, research and service.

About the Author: Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.