Endorsing the Science International Open Data Accord | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photograph of Vince Smith, Head of Informatics reading the Science International Data Accord
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.

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The story behind putting Geography into our collections | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Data map with hotspots
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.

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Automating mass-digitisation with Inselect | Digital Collections Programme

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.

A full drawer image of Mayflies with the boundary boxes around each specimen
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.

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Digitising lice and uncovering the Meinertzhagen mystery | Digital Collections Programme

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.

A high resolution image showing two human lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) in detail.
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.

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Our butterfly and moth data takes flight! | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photo showing a DSLR camera on a mount, with a tray containing a pinned butterfly speciment beneath the lens. The butterfly and accompanying scale bar and labels is visible on a computer screen to the right.
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 “Our butterfly and moth data takes flight! | Digital Collections Programme”

Preparing Lepidoptera for Digitisation | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photograph from above of a drawer filled with vertical columns of the butterflies pinned to the base, with paper labels in the top and bottom left, and the bottom right.
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 “Preparing Lepidoptera for Digitisation | Digital Collections Programme”

Identifying Potatoes with Jadwiga Sliwka

The potato – or Solanum tuberosum – is the fourth-largest crop plant in the world and therefore of great interest to researchers studying economically important food sources.

Scientist with a wild potato specimen
Jadwiga Sliwka with one of her specimens and a Museum book on potatoes.

Jadwiga Sliwka, a postdoctoral researcher from the Plant Breeding and Acclimatisation Institute (IHAR-PIB) in Poland, visited the Museum under the SYNTHESYS Access programme for three weeks in October 2016 for her project “Identity validation of Solanum accessions used as sources of important traits in potato breeding.” We interviewed her to find out more about her work.

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Visiteering with WeDigBio and the Department for Transport | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photo showing Margaret standing on the right hand side speaking to a group of people sitting in a semi-circle around her.
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.

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At the International Congress of Entomology | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photo of a lake plus fountain in front of trees and the convention centre building
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.

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