Containers in Specify 6

Containers allow Collection Objects to be logically grouped together in a Specify database. A container can be physical, like a common substrate or a box or other storage container. Containers can also be logical–e.g. a logical association of Collection Object records or perhaps other data record types.

Container model

Container Forms

Container Plugin (Collection Object form)

Container Plugin

This is the Container plugin. You can choose whether or not the object belongs in a container or if it is the container itself.

Container Form

You can see what object currently acts as the “container” here, but this field is not required. Containers can be either an object or just a container.

A Collection Object record in Specify 6 can act as a Container.

Physical Containers can be substrates or containment objects within a collection. For example, a lichen specimen on the bark of a branch might be cataloged as a Collection Object, with the branch cataloged as a Container. Or a microscope slide upon which one or more diatoms (cataloged Collection Objects) are mounted can itself be assigned a catalog number and be linked to the algal Collection Object records. A Container might be a box of specimens (Collection Objects) that needs to be cataloged in the Specify as a single (composite) collection artifact.

The above examples are for physical Containers. A logical Container is one in which only logical associations among Collection Objects are made. For example, a tissue, skin and skeleton of an animal may exist in different storage units or in different rooms or buildings in a mammal collection. Each of these might have their own Collection Object record with their own curatorial, transaction or conservation history, which for collections management purposes need to be logically associated. A logical container, itself a Collection Object, can be named in Sp6, then contain links to the data records for the associated Collection Objects.

Some physical Containers might be considered a low level rank in a Specify Storage Location tree. For example, boxes could be conceptualized as the lowest level of storage location. Currently in Specify 6 however, Containers as Collection Objects do not appear as a rank in the Storage Location Tree hierarchy, but they can be associated with a nodes on that tree. For example in a “box of specimens” example, “Box” would not be a tree rank, but the box may be stored on a shelf in a particular room where “Room” and “Shelf” would be ranks (columns) in the Storage Location tree.

In Specify 6, containers can be nested. A container can contain another container.

Containers have a designated Type.
Type is a pick list field that contains values like: Folder, Sheet, Specimen, etc.

If your collection has Containers cataloged as Collection Objects along with regular Collection Objects (specimens or lots) that are not Containers, using a query, one would need to parameterize it, to filter it out the Container records before exporting specimen data or printing labels or reports of specimens.

Some Sample Containers Use Cases:

  • Entomology: A piece of amber containing several insects.
  • Ichthyology: A collection might have a large jar of pickled fish of multiple species (not a “lot”). The jar contains many specimens, each of which have their own Collection Object record. The Container record tracks the large jar with links to the contained specimens.
  • Vertebrate Paleontology: Wooden crates containing cataloged specimens of several species from a single Collecting Event and/or Accession are stored together and linked in the database in a Container record.
  • Botany: Several lichen species and specimens are identified from the same collected twig, and a Container record associates them to that single cataloged substrate.
  • Geology: A rock could include multiple layer types, inclusions, crystals, etc. Embedded materials would be cataloged as a individual, discrete Collection Objects although associated together in the common substrate.