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Here's everything you need to know about the Collectors' Corner!

Thursday, March 21, 2019
Posted by
Rachel Wong

Located in the Mississippi River Gallery on Level 5, the Collectors’ Corner is popular spot for visitors of all ages to trade objects they find in nature. The purpose of the Collectors’ Corner is to encourage visitors to develop an appreciation for nature, as well as to fine tune their observation and research skills. Our volunteers teach young traders to be responsible learners and scientists.

An early version of the Collectors’ Corner, known as the Trading Post, was part of the Science Museum in the 1960s and ‘70s. The Collectors’ Corner opened in the current museum in 1999. Donations were first used as trading items in the beginning, but as more and more visitors traded, the Collectors’ Corner collection grew. Currently, the more pristine items that are traded in are kept as teaching materials at the Corner to educate visitors.

Five reasons to trade

  1. Collect points! Open an account at the Collectors' Corner, and trade each time you visit. Do a little research before you trade, and you'll earn points when you share the information you found. You can use your earned points to trade for something else, or save them up - we'll keep track of them for you!

  2. Expand your knowledge. Did you find an animal skull on a walk in the woods? What kind of animal is it? What does that animal eat? Where does that animal live? How is it well-equipped for its habitat? Who are its predators? The more knowledgeable you are about your item, the more points you earn!

  3. Practice critical thinking skills. Our volunteers help our younger traders connect their observations with their own hypotheses. Do you see bite marks on a piece of wood that you're trading? Why do you think they're there? Who made them? Why?

  4. See nature everywhere! You don't have to go on a trip to the wilderness to find natural objects. If you look carefully, you can find cool rocks, interesting pinecones and more in your own backyard!

  5. It’s a cool hobby! Collecting is fun, and cultivating collections is a hobby that all ages can enjoy. Collecting items is a great way for younger visitors can share their excitement for science with friends. And our traders who are kids-at-heart will have awesome nature facts to share at dinner parties!

How does it work?

  1. Find an interesting object in nature. Make sure that you can trade in this object HERE.

  2. Be sure to write down where and when you found it.

  3. Do some research and learn more about your object or specimen.

  4. Bring it to the Collectors' Corner in the Mississippi River Gallery. 

  5. Tell the Collectors' Corner staff about your specimen and earn points for what you know.

  6. Trade with the points you earn immediately, or save your points for a future trade.

What happens to my trade item after I trade it in?

As a museum with millions of artifacts and specimens either on the exhibit floor or in our Collections Storage Area, we follow careful procedures to protect our collection. Some items that visitors bring in to the Collectors' Corner are composted or placed back outside after you've shared your information and earned your points. If a traded item is useful to keep for education or display, we freeze it for 30 to 45 days to kill fungus, eggs, or anything that may be harmful to other objects and specimens in the museum. After the freezing period, we can put them back on display or put them in the case for trading! 

What if I don't have anything to trade during my next visit? 

You don’t have to trade in an item to take a look at our collection or interact with the super smart staff and volunteers at the Collectors’ Corner. They love talking to visitors and sharing their knowledge. Once you've checked out the objects that other visitors have shared, you might be inspired to bring in an item to trade next time!

Volunteers love the variety of the job - and the creativity of the traders who visit each day!

The Collectors’ Corner volunteers, many of whom have over 10 years of experience working with traders of all ages, love their work. Diane Arndt has volunteered at the Collectors’ Corner for decades; she even brought her children to trade items more than 40 years ago. Each day is different, and they never know what a visitor might bring in to trade. Visitors might bring in a skull of a rabbit or the skin of a red boa. There have been times when visitors trade in fossils that are so well-maintained that they get shared with the Paleontology program. Our volunteers say that the most memorable moments are when children’s ingenuity really shines. Siana Goodwin tells an anecdote about a small girl who brought a rock to trade. She observed that it looked like the moon's surface, so she guessed that it was a moon rock. Together, Goodwin and the trader asked questions and made thoughtful guesses about whether that identification was accurate.

Both Arndt and Goodwin agree that it’s amazing to see the knowledge, creativity, and excitement that traders of all ages bring to the Collectors' Corner.  

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