I spent most of yesterday afternoon cleaning and rearranging the basement. Three categories of objects account for ~80% of the occupied space: 1. papers and books; 2. specimens; 3. empty containers (miscellaneous plastic or cardboard boxes) for future specimens.
Among the specimens are probably more than 1000 containers of snail shells, about 200 vials of alcohol specimens and about 30 containers of litter and soil samples.
Most of the latter samples are from 2003 and 2006 when I was surveying the Monocacy Natural Resources Area and Belt Woods. Some of the litter samples have already been sieved, but not yet been sorted for snail shells. Others still need to be sieved first.
Each box or bag contains a little piece of card with the station code and the collection date written on it. It is best to keep that information inside the sample container, otherwise the two could get separated. And without that information a sample would be good only for the compost pile in the backyard.
There is no guarantee, however, that what's written on the card will be readable in the future, especially if the litter was slightly damp when the lid was closed.
Luckily in this case, the end of the card where the station code was written was in better shape than the rest and after I removed some of the overlaying filamentous stuff (fungal remains?), the station code appeared: MO-53 from the Monocacy survey. I can figure out the date from my field book.
A sample saved is a sample that needs to be processed. Maybe I should have dumped it into the compost pile right away.