Meet the NatSCA Committee – Patti Wood Finkle

Written by Patti Wood Finkle, Collections Manager at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at the Pennsylvania State University, in State College, Pennsylvania, USA.


Patti Wood Finkle

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

I am an ordinary committee member and have volunteered to lead the conference planning committee next year.

Job title and institution

Collections Manager at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at the Pennsylvania State University, in State College, Pennsylvania, USA.

Twitter username

I don’t have a twitter account, but I am a co-host on The M Files Podcast, a museum-centric podcast that my colleagues and I started during the pandemic to help museum professionals connect and learn more about other museums. Basically we get to meet new people and chat about how much we enjoy working in museums.

Tell us about your day job

In my current roll, I work with rocks, minerals, fossils, meteorites, man-made composites, industrial paintings and prints, as well as historic scientific instruments and equipment. We have a wide-ranging collection and there are always things to do, whether it is updating the current database with images and information, accessioning an incoming collection, or writing exhibit text (and I’ve done all three this week). A large part of my job is collections based, but with a staff of two, it is important to manage our time wisely and both of us take on tasks such as tours, guest lectureships, exhibit planning and development, supervising our student workers, and working with our parent institution. I also work with students and facilitate partnerships with faculty and student organizations whenever possible.

Natural science collections are very popular with museum visitors. Why do you think this is?

Because natural science is amazing! To see, in person, how large a whale is, how brilliantly a gem may sparkle, how beautiful a beetle can be is exhilarating. Screens and computers can only show you so much, but to see the things for yourself is authentic and tangible. It fuels our curiosity and our wonder. The number of times I have heard both children and adults walk into a natural science gallery and exclaim “WOW!”, sometimes under their breath and sometimes out loud, is affirmation of the power of these collections to continue to awe and educate visitors of all ages.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing natural science collections right now?

I think that the biggest challenge is funding. Funding for staff, funding for facilities maintenance, funding for research, funding to update exhibits and create more inclusive spaces for our visitors.

What do you love most about working with natural science collections?

My favorite part of working with natural history collections is the variety. I have worked with rocks, fossils (including a huge mammoth), minerals, taxidermy, wet collections, manufactured materials, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, historic objects and equipment, glassware, archival materials, and more. It has always been engaging, and unlike some of my friends who have other careers, I have enjoyed every single day.

What would your career be in an alternate universe without museums?

That is a hard question! I have wanted to work in museums and with collections since I was a child. I would probably still be in academia, working with collections, even if there were no such thing as museums.

What is your favourite museum, and why?

My favorite museum is the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden, Netherlands. It is an incredibly well thought out museum that utilizes the available space to tell the story of human occupation in the Netherlands. It had a little of this and a little of that to engage all types of visitors. To its advantage, it is located beside a picturesque canal across from the University of Leiden.

If you want to read more about our other NatSCA Committee members, you can check out our blog page or website.

If you are interested in joining the NatSCA Committee we are seeking nominations. Our Trustees are volunteers who sit on NatSCA’s committee to oversee the Association’s work to support natural science collections, the institutions that house them and the people that work with them, in order to improve collections care, understanding, accessibility and enjoyment for all.

Trustees are elected at our AGM, which is taking place this year on 27th April at our annual conference in Stoke-on-Trent.

The nomination form can be found here, and must be sent to Yvette Harvey, Secretary of NatSCA, at by ***Thursday 6th April 2023***.

The form requires being proposed and seconded by two current NatSCA members. If you have trouble identifying two members to propose you, please email for help with that. All new Trustees will receive training and induction into Committee.

One thought on “Meet the NatSCA Committee – Patti Wood Finkle

  1. Pingback: NatSCA Digital Digest – April 2023 | NatSCA

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