San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Collections]
Collections Care

Caring for Collections
Collections Sizes


Paisley S. Cato, Ph.D.
Balancing the needs of visitors and researchers who use the collections today with the need to preserve the specimens for future generations.

Photo of Paisley Cato checking building plans, 2000 Paisley currently serves as a Research Associate and consult at the San Diego Natural History Museum. From 1998 - 2006, as Curator of Collections Care and Conservation, Paisley S. Cato worked with staff to improve the care and management of the more than 8.2 million specimens in the Museum's collections. Paisley was also directly responsible for the two collections that do not have permanent research staff: marine invertebrates and mineralogy. During her tenure as Curator, she obtained five successive Conservation Project grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and co-authored three Biological Research Collection improvement grants from the National Science Foundation.

With more than 25 years experience in the museum field, Paisley has worked with collections in a variety of disciplines and a variety of institutions. Before coming to California, she was employed for six years as Head of Collections at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, including one year as Interim Director for the museum. Previously Paisley managed the mammal and frozen tissue collections at Texas A&M University (Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences Dept.), served as a Trustee for the Brazos Valley Museum (Bryan, Texas) and as Curator of Zoology at the Denver Museum of Natural History.

Paisley obtained a B.A. in Zoology from Smith College (Mass.), an M.A. in Museum Science from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, specializing in Museum Studies. Her dissertation focused on a characterization of natural history museums and the role of collections as the focus for the mission of these museums. Three articles based on this dissertation work were published in the international journal, Museum Management and Curatorship.

Active in the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Paisley served as Managing Editor for its professional journal, Collection Forum; as elected Council Member-at-large; and completed a grant for SPNHC to identify priorities for research in natural history collections conservation. She publishes in museum journals and books, and has taught undergraduate and continuing education courses in museum studies and collections management.

National Science Foundation, Biological Research Collection support grants:

2003. Co-PI with Dr. Jon Rebman. Improving Access to the Botanical Collection at SDNHM.

2002. Co-PI with Dr. Brad Hollingsworth. Improved Housing and Organization of the Herpetological Collection at SDNHM.

2000. Co-PI with Dr. Tom Deméré, Dr. Hugh Wagner. Support for the SDNHM Paleontology Collection: Mobile compactor system & collection conservation to enhance access and research use.

Institute of Museum and Library Services Conservation Project grants at SDNHM:

2005. To improve the quality of storage environment for the bird collection.

2001. To improve the quality of storage environment for the entomology collection.

2000. To improve the quality of the storage environment for the mammal collection: Phase II.

1999. To improve the quality of the storage environment for the mammal collection: Phase I.

1998. To improve the quality of the storage environment for the mineralogy collection.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training Grant

1998. for the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (NCPTT 98-138). Research Priorities for Natural History Collections Conservation Methods.

Selected Publications:

Cato, P.S., D. Dicus, and D. VonEndt. 2000. Research Priorities for Natural History Collections Conservation: A Survey of the SPNHC Membership. Collection Forum.

Cato, P.S. 1998. Natural history specimens. Pp. 73-88 in Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook. (M. Demeroukas, ed.) Southeastern Registrars Association, FL. 153 pp.

Cato, P. S. 1998. Editor of 2 sections: Administrative Functions, Risk Managment. In Museum Registration Methods, revised edition (R. A. Buck and J. A. Gilmore, eds.) American Association of Museums, Washington, D.C. 427 pp.

Cato, P.S., R.R. Waller, L. Sharp, J. Simmons, and S.L. Williams. 1996. Developing Staff Resources for Managing Collections. Spec. Pub. 4. Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville, 71 pp.

Williams, S.L. and P.S. Cato. 1995. Interaction of research, management, and conservation for serving the long- term interests of natural history collections. Collection Forum, 11(1):16-27.

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. 1994. Guidelines for the care of natural history collections. (P.S. Cato, co-chair, committee on common philosophies and objectives). Collection Forum, 10(1):32-40.