The idea here is to collect all of the museum abbreviations that any of us who work in vertebrate paleontology will ever need, so that we can copy and paste them when building the ‘Museum Abbreviations’ section of our future papers. (I’d throw an even wider net, but I think if we start bringing in invertebrates or plants the list will get unwieldy. I guess we can just start other lists for those things. UPDATE: we’re linking out to those, see below.) Anyway, this is the seed. If you have more to recommend, or if you find errors, please let us know in the comments and we’ll update the page as soon as possible.

Note: because I started building this list in a text file to quickly get rid of the native formatting from the numerous papers I copied these from, many (but curiously not all) of them had their diacritical marks stripped out. We’ll fix those as time and opportunity allow – please feel free to post corrected versions in the comments that we can copy and paste into the list.

Thanks to any and all who contribute!

Most UK collections should have Museums Documentation Association (MDA) codes in this list maintained by the Collections Trust.

Work on other stuff? Please see also:


NEW PLAN: following a suggestion by Ross Mounce, we’re crowdsourcing the list, using Matt’s work as the seed, as a Google Doc that anyone can edit. So please feel free to make your updates and additions directly: view or edit the list.

23 Responses to “All the Museum Abbreviations”

  1. […] have a new page on the sidebar – here – where we’re collecting as many museum abbreviations as possible, the idea being that […]

  2. PedroS Says:

    “ML, Museu da Lourinha, Portugal” should be “ML, Museu da Lourinhã, Portugal”

  3. GPIT should NOT be used anymore as a museum abbreviation. It remains in use as a specimen number prefix. The place is, however, called “Palaeontology department and museum, Institute of Geosciences”. The last abbreviation I know of is IFGT for “Institute for Geoscienes”.

    I have no idea how they want to be called now, and the curator there lost his job – no replacement – a few months ago. So I do not even know whom to ask. :(

  4. Cary Woodruff Says:

    MOR, Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT, USA

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, PedrosS, Heinrich and Cary. I have made the your changes on the master Google Document. Feel free to make any more changes directly there rather than needing to suggest them here.

    (I can’t believe we missed MOR!)

  6. Dave Lovelace Says:

    Thanks for pulling this together all. I have changed the UWGM (was entered as Wyomings collection, but Wyoming’s institutional abreviation is “UW”: see )

    “UWGM” actually refers to University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

    “UW” refers to University of Wyoming Geological Museum, Laramie, Wyoming, USA

    To add to the confusion, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s thesis collection is also “UW”

    What I am not sure of (foggy days of undergrad) is if the museum itself has specimens which are UWGM; however, these would be distinctly different than the main UW collection.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks for handling this, Dave.

  8. Mark Evans Says:

    The vast majority of UK institutions have what is known as a MDA Code, which is the formal institutional abbreviation. The MDA was the Museums Documentation Association, now the Collections Trust. The codes are typically 5 letters (ours at Leicester is LEICT) except for some nationals. There is a searchable database at:
    so you can enter the institution, town etc. in the search box and get the right code.

  9. Mark Evans Says:

    ..although there are the occasional glitches…
    …and it’s fairly clunky…

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, the MDA list is all very well, but it’s clearly not what people actually use. In particular, I’ve never seen LEICT in a Leicester specimen, number, only LCM — as in our old Rutland friend LCM G468.1968.

  11. Mark Evans Says:

    That’s because scientists don’t do their homework properly. LCM, for example, has never been our abbreviation and no specimen is labelled with that code, but a few people have used it, strangely including John Martin after he left us. Actually, the older LEICS (for the old county-wide museum service) was widely used up to 1997 (eg Cruickshank 1993). I’m just saying that there is already a system out there which museum curators and collections managers use to give specimens a unique identifier. There’s no need to duplicate effort. I always tell researchers what our code is, and I get annoyed when they ignore that and invent their own.

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    Interesting, Mark! Then I’ll take this to heart and use LEICS going forward.

    But I don’t think you can criticise people in general for not using the MDA list. It’s presented in the most inconvenient form possible, and is inexplicably missing important museums — for example, it has the NHM’s Tring campus, but not South Ken! If they presented the list as a list, it would likely get a lot more use.

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    Uh, I mean LEICT. LEICS is something else, right?

    Yes, in fact I see that this same abbreviation is used for three different collections.

    And LEICT is used for eight. Hmm.

  14. Mark Evans Says:

    Sorry Mike, I got a bit ranty.
    Yep, there’s a glitch in their database as the South Ken NHM doesn’t come up properly – the link takes you to Bangor Natural History Museum. Parts of the same museum service can have the same code, as each collection is uniquely identified. This is why the NHM have now brought in the additional “PV” and “OR” parts of their vert palaeo numbers for example, and why all branches of Leicester Arts and Museums use LEICT. In the old days before the shiny digital future you would just reach for your Museums Yearbook where every code was given in the listings.
    I agree that the online version is very user-unfriendly, I only discovered it the other day, spurred on by your initial post, and expected to see a handy, easy-to-use list.

  15. Mike Taylor Says:

    So, Mark, what do you think we should do? Abandon the in-progress list and just tell people to use the MDA site? Does the MDA only cover the UK? If so, then that approach is a non-starter.

    (No problem with getting ranty, be our guest!)

  16. Matt Wedel Says:

    Whoa, we’re definitely not abandoning our list. AFAIK the MDA site only covers UK museums, and even if it had a broader reach, it is highly unlikely that it would cover every obscure museum out there, which a crowd-sourced list can.

    It IS interesting that at least for some museums there seem to be two parallel systems of abbreviations – one that is listed in the MDA database (e.g., LEICT) and one that workers actually use, even if it’s technically incorrect (LCM). I wonder how many cases like that exist.

  17. Mark Evans Says:

    Yep, the MDA list only covers UK institutions, so the Grand List is definitely needed. I’m not sure if there are similar systems elsewhere in the world.

    There are only parallel systems when researchers are either unaware of the official code, for whatever reason, or if there is confusion following a changeover (eg BMNH to NHMUK, also OXFUM to OUMNH). Some workers, mainly the sauropod guys, have used LCM for us over the last 15 years, while others (Triassic trace fossils, Ediacaran macrofossils, marine reptiles) have used LEICT. NW has also been used as has LEICS from when we were part of a different service. I actually suspect that Upchurch and Martin (2002; 2003) used LCM because when they were writing the manuscripts it was clear that LEICS wasn’t valid, but the new code hadn’t been registered. This temporary measure has become perpetuated in some of the vert palaeo literature. This is why we need the listing so that everybody uses the same code. I’m all for it!

  18. Matt Wedel Says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Mark. That all makes sense.

  19. Chase Says:

    SM&NC, The Stamford Museum and Nature Center
    (Where I work)

  20. Spencer C. Boudreau Says:

    I believe that BVMNH is the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History in Bakersfield, California. Also, I think that the Burke Museum in Seattle is BMNHC.

  21. Andy Grass Says:

    An old post, but I guess it’s still ok to leave comments?

    According to Priego-Vargas et al. 2017 Revision taxonomica de los equidos del Pleistoceno de Mexico con base en la morfologia dental, “IGM” is Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México.

    Also, several years ago I was in Montevideo, Uruguay and was told that “MNHN” was the acronym for Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, which obviously overlaps with Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. But when I mentioned that they just said that’s how it’s always been. So I’m not sure how that should be handled on your list.

  22. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, Andy, thanks for pointing this out. I really don’t know what to suggest, beyond taking care to be explicit when writing a paper that has to refer to specimens in both institutions — I guess it doesn’t happen very often. I guess in that situation I would do something like this in my Institutional Abbreviations section:

    MNHNM — Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Montevideo, Uruguay. (This institution is conventionally abbreviated MNHN, but that acronym is here used for Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.)

  23. Anna Gillespie Says:

    Can someone help ID this paleo museum acronym MMP – its for a cast of a South American mammal fossil so I’m guessing its its a S. american collection

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