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New Curator Aims to Make Research Library a Community Hub

September 13, 2021

Research Library Director Ariel Hammond to Focus on Digitization and Accessibility

SAN DIEGOVisitors behind the scenes at the San Diego Natural History Museum are often stunned at the variety of objects and information that have been collected over the decades. The organization’s newest curatorResearch Library Director Ariel (Arie) Hammond, plans to get those resources out into the world in unique ways that don’t require a trip to the Museum.  

A San Diego native who blends a passion for conservation with a background in information behaviors and technologies, Hammond plans to focus on digitizing resources and diversifying audiences. She will serve as an integral part of the science division, and is one of six curators who care for the Museum’s collection of more than 8 million specimens and objects. Hammond replaces Margi Dykens, who retired in January after 23 years with the organization. 

As the Museum approaches its 150th anniversary in 2024, Hammond will play an important role in setting the stage for how the library is positioned for the future. She envisions the library as a community anchor that brings together the incredible science and resources of The Nat with diverse communities in our region. This includes plans to digitize more of the archives and rare books, highlight how science can be more accessible, and reveal stories about the unsung heroes who have made major contributions to the conservation of our region—building on a theme the Museum introduced in 2016 when it opened its library to public with the debut of the exhibition Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People.   

“Inviting the public to view treasures from the Research Library is very rare for a specialized academic library, and it speaks to the modern vision of The Nat to engage its community in science,” said Hammond“As a person who bought a microscope for fun during the pandemic, I’m glad the library exhibition highlights community scientists, because removing barriers to science and promoting the great contributions that ordinary people can make is really exciting.”  

Additional goals include reaching out to people to encourage them to use the Museum's resources, either in person or online. Hammond intends to seek out students in marginalized communities in San Diego and invite them to visit or work in the Research Library, introducing them to careers in science and librarianship, while also bringing fresh ideas and perspectives into The Nat.     

“As a woman of color, I’m excited to highlight the people and the stories that aren’t often told,” she explained. “The Museum has a long history of including many different people and perspectives in the organization, and it’s so important to bring these stories out of the archives and into the spotlight.”  

Hammond has worked and volunteered at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library, assisted with environmental children’s libraries in Vietnam through WildAct, and served on the technology committee of Wildlife Insights. She focuses on digital libraries, digitization and data, and created the Camera Trap Technology Symposium at Google headquarters. Educated at the University of California, San Diego and Rutgers, Arie has published articles on informal information behaviors and the adoption of new technologies to manage institutional information.  

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Arie on board,” said Dr. Michael Wall, Vice President of Science and Conservation. “In an era of rampant misinformation, democratizing access to trusted sources of data is critical. Arie’s contemporary expertise in information science promises to get The Nat’s amazing resources and data out into the word in unique and broadly available ways.”   

Hammond’s vision for the library builds upon The Nat’s strategic goals to make science accessible to everyone and connect our community with the resources and research that happens behind the scenes at the MuseumIn the past several years, the Museum has opened new spaces that bring visitors closer to its collection and research work, launched Spanish-language lecture seriesoffered free admission to financially disadvantaged visitorsand developed digital resources and apprenticeships designed to showcase pathways to careers in science and increase diversity in STEM.  

The Research Library has three primary archives: a main library of some 56,000 volumes on natural history topics; a comprehensive archive of historical records, original field notes, and correspondence from the early days of the Museum; and a special collection of rareantiquarian books and maps as well as an extensive collection of fine art on natural history subjects, including more than 1,000 original watercolorof California wildflowers painted by Albert R. Valentien and commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1908. 

Members of the public are invited to (virtually) meet Arie and ask her questions this Wednesday, September 15 as part of the national Ask A Curator Day on social media. Several curators from The Nat are participating in this online event (learn more at 


The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and science institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of naturalists, the Museum works to preserve and protect this amazing place we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, visit To stay up to date on Museum news, follow The Nat on Instagram and Twitter and join the discussion on Facebook 

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