4 million digital specimens and counting | Digital Collections Programme

This image of Carl Linnaeus has been created from Museum specimens rather than pixels.

The Museum’s Data Portal has passed 4 million specimens, representing around 5% of the Museum’s entire collection.

The Data Portal was launched in December 2014. In addition to Museum specimens, the Data Portal also hosts 5.3 million other research records and over 100 datasets from internal and external authors.  The Portal is a platform for researchers to make their research and collections datasets available online for anyone to explore, download and re-use.

Continue reading “4 million digital specimens and counting | Digital Collections Programme”

Darwin’s fossil mammals: discoveries that sparked the theory of evolution | Digital Collections Programme

1) book cover
Adrian Lister’s book, Darwin’s fossils: discoveries that shaped the theory of evolution

Guest blog by Adrian Lister

When I first joined the Museum as a fossil mammal researcher in 2007, I received a set of keys that gave me access to much of the museum’s huge collection.  Browsing one day, I opened an unremarkable cupboard and was startled to find six shelves of fossil bones with a sign reading ‘Charles Darwin, Beagle Voyage’.  Continue reading “Darwin’s fossil mammals: discoveries that sparked the theory of evolution | Digital Collections Programme”

Digitising Darwin’s Discoveries | Digital Collections Programme

3D Scanning Darwin's Fossil Mammals
3D laser scanning Darwin’s Fossil Mammals

In 2014, Professor Adrian Lister began research for his book on the fossils collected by Charles Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle. As part of his research, Professor Lister began to document the complex histories of these specimens from their point of collection to the present day. It soon became clear that the mammalian specimens had not been adequately documented or revised in the 185 years since their initial publication. This has meant that they have not been included in most modern scientific studies. This is despite the fact that the majority of the specimens in this collection are ‘type’ specimens (the reference specimens for that species), essential for scientific study of these species.

Continue reading “Digitising Darwin’s Discoveries | Digital Collections Programme”

What is a Cetacean and why would you scan it? |Digital Collections Programme

Photograph of the skull of Northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) being 3D surface scanned.
Using our 3D handheld surface scanners to map the surface of a Northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus)

‘Cetacea’ is the collective order for all whales, dolphins and porpoises. We have more than 2,500 specimens in the Museum collection, at least 500 from the UK strandings programme. Cetaceans are great indicators of wider ocean health – if there’s a problem lower in the food chain, e.g. plastic pollution, it concentrates in cetaceans. If cetacean populations are healthy, so are our oceans. Continue reading “What is a Cetacean and why would you scan it? |Digital Collections Programme”

How do you scan a shark? | Vertebrates Palaeobiology

You may have seen the Museum’s work in the news recently, when our scan of a catshark helped University of Sheffield researchers understand how shark teeth evolved. In this blog, Brett Clark from the Museum’s Vertebrates Palaeobiology department shows us the method used.

Our research, led by Dr Zerina Johanson, investigates the evolution and development of teeth in jawed vertebrates – in particular, the tooth arrangement of present day sharks.

But how exactly do you scan a shark?

Continue reading “How do you scan a shark? | Vertebrates Palaeobiology”