How, When and Why the databases were compiled

Why the database was compiled:

At a Conference in Liverpool in 1977, called to discuss the future of 'Provincial' natural history collections following the reorganisation of local government in the UK in 1976, it was decided that the first imperative was to compile a database of all the collections in the UK - we could not protect what we did not know existed! This work started initially in the North West of England, and served as a pilot for the surveying of the rest of the UK.

When the various sections of the database were compiled:

The present 'state of play' of the various CRU (Collection Research Unit - see next section) databases is as follows:

Area CRU Date published Date last revised Present size
AMCRU 1993 (1991) 2140
NECRU 1986 (1985) 1086
NWCRU 1999(a) (1995) 2345
SECRU 1993 (1991) 1906
STCRU 1987 (1986) 3295
SWCRU not published (1994) 168(b)
WLCRU 1999(a) (1997) 1367
YHCRU 1987 (1998)(c) 3068


How the database is organised and maintained

The 'national' database is actually eight separate databases, each of which covers a separate area of the UK (see the History of Fenscore for more detail); it presently has 15,365 entries in total from Scotland, Wales and the six main regions of England.

How to do a search

How the search script works

Searches are done at present using a Perl script, which has been adapted from that used to search the specimen databases on the Manchester Museum Website. [NB. at the moment - Summer 1999 - there is a project in hand, funded by the Museums and Galleries Commission, to convert the Fenscore databases to conform with the Z39.50 protocol. Once this is finished a more sophisticated search engine will be possible]. The online version of the database is a text file, and the search is for words (or more precisely, a string starting after a space) - thus Smith will retrieve Smith and Smithson but not Wordsmith.

If entering multiple words to search for, note that they just need a space between them - do not put a + sign, or 'and' etc. The script automatically 'ands' two terms for you. To do an 'or' search you will need to do two separate searches.

Sections are given below giving guidance on how to do specific types of search, but hopefully the searching procedure is quick, so a 'suck it and see' approach is also possible, and sometimes pulls out some surprising results. Happy hunting!

How to search for a person

People's names were meant to be entered in the order family-name, fore-names/initials, title. Most are in this order, but sometimes forenames or initials, and title, were not known. Also despite much editing, sometimes initials have full stops after them, sometimes not, which can make searching on initials tricky. In different records the same person can be given with full forenames or with just initials or with only one initial, reflecting what was known at the time of survey. Therefore generally it is best to search only for surname/family-name; while this may produce some false retrievals it should get all the records of interest to you - albeit you have to sift through the retrieved records to find them. Even with commoner names, such as Smith or Brown, this will usually work if combined with a second term, such as a taxonomic name, for searching.

As well as people, ships (e.g. Challenger), expeditions and major institutions from which material may have come will also have been noted, usually in the Associated Names field.

How to search for a taxonomic name

Most of the taxonomic information is held in the Subject of Collection field, although sometimes it is also found in the Additional Info. field, etc. Please note that the level of detail is at Phyla, Class and (for Insects mainly) Order level; you are unlikely to retrieve successfully on family or genus names. All the taxonomic information in the record will have been coded, principally to permit the production of indexes for the published Registers. The Taxonomic Code List may be inspected on this site, but as yet one cannot search the databases using these codes. However, during the Summer of 1999 a project is being funded by the Museum and Galleries Commission to convert copies of the databases to the Z39.50 metadata standard; as part of this exercise lookup tables are being prepared that should greatly improve the taxonomic search facilities.

How to search for a geographical locality

Most of the information on the geographical area from which the material in a collection has come is in the Geographic Srce field, although sometimes further information is present in the Additional Info. field etc. Please note the level of detail recorded reflects the information that was available when the collection was surveyed. Since the collections covered are in UK institutions it should be no surprise that UK material forms a major part - and therefore where possible the information for these is given down to County level. For mainland Europe the information is at Country level, and elsewhere is sometimes at no more than Sub-Continent level (eg. East Africa), although if a country is given it will be recorded.

The geographical information has been coded, principally to permit the production of the published Registers. The Geographic Code List may be inspected on this site, and will give a clearer picture of the level of information available in the records, but as yet one cannot search the databases using these codes. However, during the Summer of 1999 a project is being funded by the Museum and Galleries Commission to convert copies of the databases to the Z39.50 metadata standard; as part of this exercise lookup tables are being prepared that should greatly improve the geographical search facilities. The Geographical Codes have been developed within a hierarchical structure, so that they can be expanded to accomodate greater detail for non-UK areas if need be, and anyone contemplating survey work elsewhere in the World is welcome to use our Code Lists as guides.

How to interpret and use the results of a search

What the "fields" contain

The following are the fields that may be present in a retrieved entry, with an explanation of the information they may be expected to contain. Note, however, that with over two hundred curators collecting and entering the information over two decades, some variations have crept in - so don't be surprised if specific information appears in unexpected places in the occasional record. The four-letter code following the field name is the 'standard' Fenscore abbreviation for the field.

How to find out more about a collection of interest

Where possible it is intended to put in hyperlinks to the Webpages of Institutions holding the collection, enabling direct contact to be made. This is at a very early stage at present, but examples can be tried by looking for 'Waters Bryozoa' or 'Dresser Birds' in the national or NWCRU databases.

If you have access to the Museums Yearbook published by the UK Museums Association, this will give the contact details for most UK museums. Again it is hoped to provide links to online information about museums, but permission is still awaited.

More information and contact details for many institutions can also be found on NatSCA's crowdsourced map of UK collections - NH Near You.

Update history

The databases

The Perl search script