Join us for the global WeDigBio event and become a digital volunteer for the Museum | Miniature Lives Magnified

From 20-23 October, the Natural History Museum is taking part in the global WeDigBio event, which is all about digitising natural history collections around the world.

Insect with antennae, large eyes, wings and a multicoloured metallic body.
Just millimetres long, Chalcids, like this Perilampus aeneus are so small they are difficult to find and study. This means there are vast gaps in our knowledge and understanding of their ecology and behaviour.

Image of the WeDigBio logoIt will be a great opportunity to meet other natural history enthusiasts face-to-face (check out the event listing to find one near you, even if it isn’t here at the Museum), or engage with other volunteers online who will be helping us to transcribe specimen information, to set the data free!

Although our own hands-on Visiteering session during the WeDigBio event is now fully booked, you are welcome to register for the rest of our Visiteering scheme at any time.

The collection that we are profiling as part of WeDigBio focuses on a group of wasps called chalcids (pronounced ‘kal-sids’).

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Magnifying the miniature at Science Uncovered 2016 | Miniature Lives Magnified

On Friday 30 September the Miniature Lives Magnified team joined our colleagues in the halls of the Museum in South Kensington for our annual festival, Science Uncovered.

The theme for this year’s event for European Researchers’ Night was Hidden Worlds – a perfect opportunity to invite folks to give our online The Killer Within Expedition a go, and to show off our chalcid wasps!

Photo showing a box of tiny chalcid wasp specimens under a microscope with the screen of the computer behind (out of focus) showing the magnified specimens.
Miniature Lives Magnified at the Museum’s Science Uncovered event

It was wonderful to meet with such a wide range of visitors, from children coming straight from school with their families, to young adults enjoying a date night with a beer in hand, and of course the full range of ages as Museum-goers enjoyed the chance to chat with all our scientists and learn more about their work.

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Past legacy sheds light on the future | Digital Collections Programme

The butterflies and moths amassed by avid collectors Dr EA Cockayne, Dr HBD Kettlewell and Lord Walter Rothschild make up the core of the Museum’s world famous collection of British and Irish Lepidoptera.

lycaena-phlaeas-2000
Small copper butterflies that have been digitised and rehoused as part of the project

The Museum is digitising the Lepidoptera collection and using the data to ask important scientific questions about the effects of environmental change. Dr Cockayne passion led him to form the Cockayne Trust for Lepidoptera research, his legacy is funding the digitisation.

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Going digital! New crowdsourcing project launched | Miniature Lives Magnified

Be a digital volunteer for the Museum and help transcribe scientific data from microscope slides… We are so very excited to launch our latest citizen science project Miniature Lives Magnified.

As part of our Digital Collections Programme,  we have imaged 100,000 microscope slides of some of the world’s smallest insects and we need your help to unlock the data from the specimen labels, so that we can uncover more of nature’s secrets.

Rectangular glass microscope slide, with old handwritten labels.
Spot the wasp: we have 6,000 microscope slides of Chalcid wasps, that we would like you to help us to transcribe data from.

In partnership with our good friends from the online crowdsourcing platform Notes from Nature, today we launch our first collection called ‘The killer within: wasps but not as you know them’.

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Global digital collections | Digital Collections Programme

talk
Deborah Paul presenting on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Ben Price and Douglas Russell blogged recently about presentations by Museum colleagues at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Protection of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) in Berlin, noting that delegates were passionate about the potential of digitisation to help us illustrate, research and understand our changing world. As well as presenting, we learned a lot from the other presenters and attendees, picking up some themes which are particularly relevant to our Digital Collections Programme (DCP).

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Digital butterfly data takes flight | Digital Collections Programme

The Museum’s entire collection of  181,545 British and Irish butterflies are now in a digital form and available for all to see online in the Museum’s Data Portal.

Photo from overhead of the drawer containing 9 columns of brightly coloured butterflies with their accompanying QR code labels.
A specimen drawer of common clouded yellow butterflies (Colias croceus). The new barcodes created as part of the Museum’s iCollections digitisation project are visible.

Each butterfly has a new digital image and digital record of the specimen’s collector, place and date of collection and this data are already being used to work out the effects of climate change on UK butterflies.

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Digitisation futures in Berlin | Digital Collections

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

31st Annual Meeting June 20-25 2016, Berlin

Report by Ben Price and Douglas Russell

Museum collections are rapidly evolving in response to new research questions, innovations in digitisation and molecular analysis, and major challenges for society.  It’s essential that museums work together to ensure that new ideas are exchanged and collaboration strengthened to make development more rapid and effective.

 

Photo showing the spirit collection at the Berlin museum - shelves of sealed specimen jars with fish and other animals preserved within
Fluid-preserved collections in the Berlin natural history museum

The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) is an international society whose mission is to improve the preservation, conservation and management of natural history collections to ensure their continuing value to society. The annual conference is one of the largest gatherings of museum professionals each year and it gives us museum and conservation folk an excellent opportunity to network and share the latest cutting-edge knowledge in our field.

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Bringing fossils into the digital age | Digital Collections

What do an Iguanodon’s thumb spike, an ichthyosaur paddle and a shark fin spine all have in common? Well these are just some of the specimens we’ve digitised as part of the museum’s eMesozoic project, headed by Fossil Mammal Curator Dr Pip Brewer.

Hypsilophodon foxii,
An Early Cretaceous dinosaur Hypsilophodon foxii, from Brightstone Bay Isle of Wight, one of the images taken as part of the eMesozoic project.

For the past eight months myself and two other eMesozoic digitisers, Lyndsey Douglas and David Godfrey, have been busy in the palaeontology department mass imaging British Mesozoic vertebrates for the first time.

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Digital Collections: the Cisco Pitstop | Digital Museum

We have a massive digital challenge. How do we transform museum collections of millions of diverse specimens, each with complex information in many forms, into digital resources – images and data – to be used by modern science and shared across the world?

The collections have been at the centre of scientific knowledge for 300 years – how do we take them into science’s future? In the words of Rod Page from Glasgow University: how do we transform a 19th Century technology into a 21st Century technology? This is the question we have been looking at in a Cisco Pitstop at the London Digital Catapult Centre over two days in February 2016.

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Why georeferencing is the most important thing for the Museum since sliced bread | Digital Collections Programme

The ‘spatial wealth’ of the Museum’s collections is often ignored or at best under-appreciated. Most specimens if not all have a spatial locality associated with them, either written on to a label, written in a notebook, or on the specimen.

Close crop of a photo of a drawer of pinned clouded yellow butterflies with QR code and hand written labels visible
Digitising the Museum’s collections will let us unlock and share a treasure trove of information about our 80 million specimens

These localities can vary between very precise (e.g. a GPS-based latitude/longitude), very imprecise (e.g. ‘South America’) or, most likely, somewhere in-between. Most specimens within the Museum do not have a latitude and longitude, but do have detailed locality information on the accompanying label, which can be used to define co-ordinates for that specimen. So what is georeferencing, why do we need it, and how do we use it?

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