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.
Fleas are some of the oddest insects and sit in a strange position when it comes to how the public feel about them. Fleas are hated for their feeding activities and disease transmission whilst their aesthetics have long been admired thanks to mostly the works of Robert Hooke and his diagrams in Micrographia.
The illustration of a flea in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia
Hooke writes ‘the strength and beauty of this small creature, had it no other relation at all to man, would deserve a description’. Wonderfully phrased, this sentence sums up the feelings I have when looking at these small creatures.
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 →
Visiteering offers one day volunteering opportunities to the public, linking our Museum narratives to a series of set ‘challenges’ relating to our collections. On 20 October we completed our first collaborative Visiteering session to coincide with a worldwide transcription event run by WeDigBio.
Margaret explains the importance of digitising our collections to the Dangerous Goods Group from the Department of Transport
WeDigBio, is a four day event that engages global participants online and onsite in digitising natural history collections. Although our main focus was our Visiteers in the lab for a day, we also encouraged other visitors to the museum to engage in the project via posters with QR codes and promoted a worldwide audience to get involved with blogposts and social media promotion prior, during and post event.