When the Royal Ontario Museum prepared to launch a revitalised Dinosaur Gallery in the new wing of the Crystal addition in 2007, paleontologist David Evans, the new Associate Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, wished to display a type of sauropod, a group of dinosaurs including Barosaurus. This massive creature would join the existing exhibit of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, and a Stegosaurus. He spent months investigating options, which included purchasing a replica skeleton or even finding one to dig up, but to his surprise, “while reading an article by famed sauropod expert Jack McIntosh something caught his eye — a reference to a Barosaurus skeleton at the ROM”. 1 There was no record of the dinosaur in ROM catalogues, though its bones had been scattered in several drawers for safe keeping. The former curator, who had brought the Barosaurus with him to ROM over 40 years ago, had long since retired, and although he had written a paper on the subject, no member of the present team realised what they had in the collection.
How does one misplace a 90-foot, 15 tonne sauropod, the largest dinosaur the world has ever known? By neglecting description and metadata of your data. In the age of Googling, the need for cataloguing may seem as extinct as dinosaurs, but well-formed, standardized metadata is a necessity for the discovery, access, preservation, and sharing of digital objects.
1 Massive Barosaurus skeleton discovered at the ROM Tuesday, November 13, 2007 (accessed 20 April 2015) http://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/massive-barosaurus-skeleton-discovered-at-the-rom