What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly? | Digital Collections Programme

We are currently digitising the Madagascan Lepidoptera collection, a project that has been supported by John Franks and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

madagascan drawers
A drawer of Madagascan type specimens

The specimens imaged are ‘Types’ – specimens from which the relevant species was named and described.

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Open Access Week 2017 | Digital Collections Programme

October 23 – 29, 2017 is International Open Access Week and on this tenth anniversary of the event, institutions have been asked to discuss the benefits of making data openly accessible.

Photography of Vince Smith, Head of Diversity & Informatics in the Museum collection
Vince Smith, Head of Diversity & Informatics, the Museum’s signatory for the International data accord

Earlier this year, the Natural History Museum signed the International Open Data Accord stating that the Museum recognises the opportunities and challenges of the data revolution and adopts a set of internationally recognised principles support open access to our data. Continue reading “Open Access Week 2017 | Digital Collections Programme”

Digitising the Madagascan Lepidoptera type specimens | Digital Collections Programme

We have started digitising the Madagascan moths and butterflies, a project that has been supported by John Franks and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

Photo of pinned specimen with barcode
Holotype of the giant orange-tip (Gideona lucasi) butterfly, with accompanying barcode

This project is different from our previous Lepidoptera digitisation as it is only looking at type specimens.

A type specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) is an example specimen on which the description and name of a new species is based.

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How Lego lends a hand in digitising 300 year old Herbarium books | Digital Collections Programme

The Museum is on a mission to digitise 80 million specimens. We want to mobilise the collections to give the global community access to this unrivaled historical, cultural, geographical and taxonomic resource.

The Sloane Herbarium at the Natural History Museum, London
The Sir Hans Sloane Herbarium in the Darwin Centre Cocoon at the Museum in London

Carrying out pilot projects helps us to establish bespoke digital capture workflows on areas of the collections. Mercers Trust funded a small scale pilot project to digitise the more difficult to image herbarium specimens from the Samuel Browne Volumes of the Sloane Herbarium that contain specimens of medicinal plants form India. Dr Steen Dupont from the Museum’s Digital Collection programme has been leading on this project. Continue reading “How Lego lends a hand in digitising 300 year old Herbarium books | Digital Collections Programme”

Butterflies and their sensational parasitoids | Digital Collections Programme

The Museum’s Sensational Butterflies exhibition is host to over 500 butterflies each year. Each morning, work in the Museum’s butterfly house starts two hours before the exhibition opens because it takes constant attention to maintain the ideal environment for these butterflies to flourish. One of the aspects that needs to be attended to is pest control.

an image of the sensational butterfly exhibition
Pest-free foliage in the Sensational Butterflies exhibition

One of the most significant pests that needs to be kept under control in the butterfly house are Aphids.

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Freezing thousands of bees at -80 degrees | Digital Collections Programme

The UK Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI) provided funding between 2010-2015. This was a joint initiative supported by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), NERC, the Wellcome Trust and the Scottish Government, under the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership 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.

A photograph of the Molecular and Frozen Collections Manager with some of the frozen IPI specimens.
Jacqueline Mackenzie-Dodds, Molecular and Frozen Collections Manager with some of the IPI specimens.

Insects visiting flowers, including bees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies and moths, are very important to plants. While moving between flowers they carry pollen from one flower to another.

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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.

Continue reading “The story behind putting Geography into our collections | Digital Collections Programme”

Fleas: their fans, feeding habits and the disease | Digital Collections Programme

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.

Photo showing an unfolded page insert with an illustration of a flea, in an edition of 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.

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