Florida Museum: Digital records of preserved plants and animals change how scientists explore the world. “There’s a whole world behind the scenes at natural history museums that most people never see. Museum collections house millions upon millions of dinosaur bones, pickled sharks, dried leaves, and every other part of the natural world you can think of–more than could ever be put on display. Instead, these specimens are used in research by scientists trying to understand how different kinds of life evolved and how we can protect them. And a new study in Plos One delves into how scientists are using digital records of all these specimens.”
Natural History Museum Blog: Digitising Butterfly types of the 21st century |Digital Collections Programme. “Some of the Museum’s invaluable butterfly reference material, previously only accessible to a handful of scientists, has been released onto the Museum’s Data Portal. Over 90% of these specimens were designated as types in the 21st Century, but this is the first time that images of many of these species have been freely accessible to the global community.”
BBC: ‘Digital museum’ brings millions of fossils out of the dark. “The bid to create a ‘global digital museum’ has been welcomed by scientists, who say it will enable them to study valuable specimens that are currently “hidden” in museum drawers. Museums including London’s Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian in Washington DC are involved.”
University of Helsinki: Bringing nature online – all 13 million samples of it. “In downtown Helsinki, the remains of millions of animals and plants rest in cabinets in the long hallways of the Finnish Museum of Natural History. They’ve been collected over 300 years, and in the era of climate change and biodiversity loss they are more important than ever. But how will one transfer more than 13 million specimens from the cabinets to the Internet?”
RPI: Applying Network Analysis to Natural History. “A team of researchers is using network analysis techniques – popularized through social media applications – to find patterns in Earth’s natural history, as detailed in a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). By using network analysis to search for communities of marine life in the fossil records of the Paleobiology Database, the team, including researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was able to quantify the ecological impacts of major events like mass extinctions and may help us anticipate the consequences of a ‘sixth mass extinction.'”
Wired: The Natural History Museum is going high tech to save its archive. “London’s Natural History Museum is digitising its specimens – all 80 million of them. ‘We need to record them to create data in aggregate,’ says Vince Smith, the museum’s head of informatics. With the collection including everything from a blue whale skeleton to Martian meteorites, progress is understandably slow: since the project started in 2014, the museum has only digitised 4.5 per cent of the collection. Undeterred, the 11-person digital collections team has set its sights on recording 20 million specimens in the next few years with specially developed kit.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison: Campus museums recreate ‘cabinet of natural history’ digitally. “A new UW2020 initiative will centralize the databases of the university’s five natural history museums, which have separated over the decades to specialize and accommodate growing collections. The 1.3-million-specimen Wisconsin State Herbarium will coordinate with the zoology, geology, entomology and anthropology museums to merge records in a way that allows researchers to study the full scope of natural artifacts in one central location. This digital cabinet of natural history will link the museums’ combined 9 million-plus specimens that span all seven continents, the moon and Mars.”
The Telegram (Massachusetts): EcoTarium launches digitized database of specimens. “The EcoTarium launched a database of its digitized natural history collection Monday. The searchable database consists of descriptions and images of over 4,000 specimens from the EcoTarium’s collection, including animals, plants and minerals. The collection includes extinct and endangered specimens, some of which are over 100 years old.” The digitizing is still in process; it is expected to be complete by 2025.
Phys.org: 3-D scanning fossils to help researchers around the world study mastodons. “Boxes upon boxes filled with the fossilized remains of a mastodon that died in Virginia more than 18,000 years ago are being hauled up the steps to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Virtual Curation Laboratory, where the massive Ice Age animal’s fossils—including the tip of a tusk, a very worn tooth, toe bones, a rib bone and a mandible—are slated to be 3-D scanned.”
Yale News: Peabody digitization project facilitates ‘time travel’ to Cretaceous period. “The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History houses tens of thousands of fossil specimens collected from the chalk deposits the seaway left behind — from one-celled foraminifera to alpha predators. … The museum has partnered with eight natural history institutions nationwide to digitize their fossil collections related to the seaway in order to enable researchers and students to better understand this once-vibrant and long-disappeared ecosystem.”
Natural History Museum: Freezing thousands of bees at -80 degrees . “The UK Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI) provided funding between 2010-2015 to support projects studying a wide variety of UK pollinators and their habitats. Nine separate projects were funded and as a result of these projects around 50,000 specimens were collected.”
Gizmodo: University Threatens Destruction of Millions of Specimens if Museum of Natural History Collection Not Relocated. “According to a Facebook post from the University of Louisiana at Monroe Museum of Natural History, administrators have demanded that 6.5 million plant and fish specimens must find a new home on campus within 48 hours or they will be have to be donated or destroyed. Apparently, space is needed for the track team.”
The American Museum of Natural History needs your help writing image descriptions. From the page: “We’re looking for volunteers to help us create descriptions for over 30,000 images on the Museum’s website so that all visitors can have the same access to information about the Museum’s world-famous collections, exhibitions, educational programs, research initiatives, and more.”
The Natural History Museum in London has digitized its oldest book and put it online. “The Museum’s Library and Archives has digitised its oldest book, Historia Naturalis, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). The Museum’s copy is one of only 100 first editions. It was published in 1469, barely 30 years after the invention of the printing press – and about 1,400 years after it was compiled. Its author is Roman philosopher and scholar Gaius Plinius Secundus, commonly known as Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).” Obviously I can’t read a word of it as it’s Latin, but man, it’s a beautiful book.
The Trustees of Reservations have created a digital archive (PRESS RELEASE). “The Trustees is a member-supported, non-profit organization that cares for some of Massachusetts’ most treasured natural, scenic, and historic sites, including reservations and historic houses across more than 27,000 acres in 75 communities… Key pieces of history within the organization’s collections include historical documents such as original letters written by Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, accounts of early Massachusetts cabinetmakers, and Charles Eliot’s scrapbook documenting the founding of The Trustees, a 140-page account of clippings, letters, pamphlets, and more.”