A growing number of museums are joining open data initiatives to publish their collection databases and digital reproductions online. The Museum has operated a policy of open by-default on our digital scientific collections.
Vince Smith, Head of Informatics reading the Science International Data Accord
By signing the International Open Data Accord, the Museum recognises the opportunities and challenges of the data revolution and adopts a set of internationally recognised principles as our response to these.
Guest blog by Liz Duffel, Georeferencing Digitiser
Most specimens within the Museum collection have locality information, showing where the specimen was found, on the accompanying label(s). When we are digitising our specimens, we can use that locality information for georeferencing – the process used to give the locality of a specimen geographical coordinates, so that it can be plotted on a map.
A data portal visualisation showing the global distribution of the Museum’s zoological specimens with digital records
This is important because it allows for mapping and modelling, which underpins research on anything from species distributions and relationships, to environmental changes or targeting conservation practices.
Natural history collections provide an enormous evidence base for scientific research on the natural world. We are working to digitise our collection and provide global, open access to this data via our Data Portal.
Tray of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) with bounding boxes from the Inselect programme
To digitise the collection we are developing digital capture flows that cater for a wide range of collection types. One of the applications we have developed is Inselect – a cross-platform, open source desktop PC application that automates the cropping of individual images of specimens from whole-drawer scans.
We are in the process of digitising the Museum’s parasitic louse (Phthiraptera) collection, which consists of around 73,000 microscope slides. The collection is one of the largest – and the most taxonomically comprehensive – in the world.
Human lice specimens (Pediculus humanus capitis)
Lice are permanent ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their bird and mammal hosts. They are highly host specific, with the majority of the ~5,000 louse species being unique to a particular host species of mammals and birds.
Our previous blog post looked at preparing the Lepidoptera for digitisation. In this post, we will look at the second part of the digitisation process; the imaging and transcription that allows data to be set free and accessed by the global science audience on the Museum’s Data Portal.
The imaging equipment set up to digitise the Lepidoptera collection
Let’s find out what’s involved and why it’s leading to new ways of accessing and using the information in our collections. Continue reading →
We are working to digitise more than half a million British and Irish butterflies and moths. Our three year iCollections project started in 2013, and we have received additional funding from the Cockayne Trust to continue this digitisation work to September 2017.
Original drawer with Mullein (Cuculblia verbasci) specimens.
The mass digitisation of this collection has given Museum scientists the opportunity to study these specimens in new ways. In addition to research carried out in the Museum, digitisation also allows anyone around the world to see the specimens via the Data Portal. Continue reading →
This October, several colleagues from the insects division of the Museum attended the 25th International Congress of Entomology (ICE2016), an event that is held every four years. This year’s took place in Orlando, Florida with the theme “entomology without borders.” The Museum’s Vince Smith writes about his experiences at the world’s biggest entomological conference.
Part of the cavernous Orange County Convention Center which hosted ICE2016
With 6,682 delegates from 102 countries, giving a staggering 5,396 presentations, the plenary sessions were more like attending a football match (in scale if not in tone) than a scientific meeting! This is the largest conference I’ve ever attended – my heartfelt congratulations to the organisers for ensuring ICE2016 ran smoothly.