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5 Posts tagged with the collections tag
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Kew and the Natural History Museum are working together on large scale digitisation of their plant collections - #digitalherbarium #Kew #NHM

 

 

Trolleys containing green boxes.

 

Packing specimens at Kew. Kew is sending 41,000 specimens.

 

Plants preserved as herbarium specimens provide the evidence of what plants there are, where they grow and when they were collected. They provide the basis for modelling plant distribution over time, act as evidence that ensures plants are named consistently, and are a source of material for analyses of anatomy, disease and disease control, biochemistry and evolutionary relationships. Together, the herbaria at Kew and the Natural History Museum, London, contain more than 12 million specimens and are consulted by many visitors from around the world. Much of the information that these researchers need is stored away in cupboards, and is therefore not discoverable until a scientist visits the institution and looks inside. By providing images and data from these specimens online, anyone interested in plant diversity, for research or just for interest, can discover what our institutions hold and then access the information they need.

 

Recently some large European herbaria such as the Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and Naturalis in The Netherlands have had digital images made of their entire collections in order to make both specimen images and data about each collection available. Kew and the Natural History Museum have been working closely with Picturae, the company involved in the digitisation of the Naturalis herbarium, to develop cooperative workflows to make digital images and capture data from part of the two institutions’ collections.


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Jacek Wajer and Jonathan Gregson selecting specimens for packing at the Natural History Museum

 

We are embarking on the first stage of this adventure starting the last week of January. This first stage is a pilot to refine workflows and to gather information so we can plan larger scale projects in the future. We are focusing our efforts on several groups of economic plants, the genus Solanum (potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines), the St. John’s Worts (Hypericum) and the family Dioscoreaceae (yams). In all, approximately 70,000 specimens will be digitised using Picturae’s ‘digistreet’ methods. A ‘digistreet’ is essentially a purpose-built conveyor belt system that minimises manual handling of fragile herbarium specimens and captures high resolution images of each. After quality control and checking at both Picturae and the respective institutions, detailed information on where and when each plant was collected will be transcribed from the labels on the specimens by a team in Suriname.


Our objectives for this pilot phase are:


  • Image all Kew’s and NHM’s selected pilot herbarium specimens to an agreed common standard
  • Transcribe all the label collection data from these specimens to an agreed standard.
  • Incorporate all of the images and data into the institutions’ specimen catalogues to make them discoverable on-line.
  • Work together to refine accurate costing of mass digitisation using Picturae’s methods and develop joint workflows that will facilitate future work involving more partners across the UK.

 

This important pilot will lay the foundation for future collaborative work, with the eventual goal of providing access to the rich botanical collections held in UK institutions. We will share the results of our pilot with other institutions to help increase access to the wealth of information on global plant diversity held within the UK and to maximise the scientific and conservation impact of data held in plant collections worldwide. We hope that others will want to join in on this adventure!


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The Picturae conveyor belt imaging system in Amsterdam.

 

 

The pilot began on the 19th of January with material being sent to Picturae in the Netherlands. We will be tweeting and blogging on the progress of the project as the specimens are shipped, imaged and transcribed - follow us on Twitter using the hashtags  #digitalherbarium #Kew #NHM

 

 

Find out more:

Picturae Digistreet

Natural History Museum: Digital Museum

Kew Herbarium

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Daubenton was an EU Leonardo da Vinci programme-funded project which provided participants with a two-week training placement at an institution in Europe. Participants could visit Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet Stockholm, University of Copenhagen, Museum of Natural History of University of Florence, Naturalis, Leiden, Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, or Národni Museum, Prague.

 

The project enabled collections management, technical and public engagement staff to visit collaborating institutions across Europe, allowing them to broaden their skills and expertise and significantly raise their awareness of alternative approaches to the management, display and educational use of museum collections as applied in other European institutions. Much of the learning experience revolved around observing how and why particular procedures are adopted and implemented with hands-on effort.

 

Participants from the Museum, National Museums Wales and World Museum Liverpool will be sharing their experiences of working in a European institute, how different institutions use and manage their collections, and what applications the findings from their visits had in their home institution. There will also be a short presentation on the possibility of a future similar project to be applied for under Erasmus+ Key Action 1, and how to get involved.

Collections Seminar Series - FINAL Daubenton 7 Aug.jpg

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Margaret Cawsey, Curator of Data, Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO

 

Friday 4 July 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Specimen-based collection records from museums and herbaria are often regarded as a more authoritative basis for research than observational assertions. Through the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au), Australian collections have a centralised venue for sharing their biodiversity data on a large scale. *3.3 million collection records are brought together with a variety of tools that enable researchers to select, interrogate, map and analyse these data. Scientists are taking advantage of the increasing accessibility and large numbers of these records to enhance their research - illustrative examples are presented. Advantage also accrues to collections, in that the value of their data to researchers, policy-makers, environmental managers and the community at large is demonstrated by data download statistics. The Atlas also provides tools for researchers to communicate with curators, in effect permitting collections to crowd-source the expert identification of data errors, facilitating rapid correction.


(*3.1 million have locational coordinates)

 

 

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Thanks to a collaboration between the Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project (TABDP, which is a University College London, NHM and Darwin Initiative project)  and the Butterflies of America project (BoA) , we now have a unique online archive of photographs of the type specimens of Neotropical butterflies - butterflies from the tropical areas of the Americas.

 

 

 

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This project has a number of purposes and benefits. 

 

  • First, the list of butterflies is a checklist - a list used to define all the species found in a particular area. This is important because it summarises current knowledge of diversity: biodiversity scientists and conservation professionals know what has been found and what they should take account of in research. The act of compiling a checklist will often involve research and reorganisation of collections to reflect current knowledge
  • Second, these are photographs of the type specimens - the definitive reference specimens used as authority for the use of a scientific name.  These are housed in museums such as the NHM in a number of different locations. A virtual photographic collection allows scientists to see easily where the reference specimens are for use - and the photograph may be sufficient for some scientific uses.  It also brings together specimens from different collections that would not otherwise be brought together without considerable cost.
  • Third, the photographs can help in identification and mean that scientists and conservation workers in different parts of the Americas can use the resource as a reference - this may need some care and development of more complex identification resources, such as keys, but the pictures are an important resource nonetheless.


The great majority of these images are scans of print photographs taken by Gerardo Lamas over many years of research in museums throughout the world, and we are very grateful for his generosity in allowing them to be made available. Scanning and initial databasing of the prints was completed by TABDP, supported by the Darwin Initiative, and then given to BoA to be made available online. BoA's Nick Grishin designed and wrote the web pages that now display the images. Numerous other people deserve acknowledgement, including the curators of the museums where these types are housed and many other members of TABDP, BoA and other lepidopterists who contributed images, time and encouragement. 

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Archaeopteryx - a bird?

Posted by John Jackson Aug 1, 2011

Archaeopteryx must be one of the most familar images associated with the origins and evolution of birds.  Famously, it was first described one hundred years ago in 1861 from a single feather in 150-million year old Jurasssic limestone from Solnhofen in Bavaria. 

 

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The first skeletal fossil of Archaeopteryx was found in 1861 and purchased by the British Museum (part of which later became the Natural History Museum) for £700 in 1862.  This specimen was described by the then Superintendent of the Museum's Natural History Departments, Richard Owen, in 1863.  A further nine fossils have been found since then and are found in various museums. Although the first fossil found was of a feather, it is not now certain that the feather was from the same species as the body fossils. When first found, Archaeopteryx was uniquely important in showing the connection between birds and other reptiles - but since  then, evidence from many other fossils has supported the scientific view  of the origins of birds.


These fossils have traditionally been seen as those of a very early bird at the very base of the current avian branch of the Tree of Life.  The birds emerged by the evolution and diversification of a group of reptiles in the late Jurassic period - just over 161 million years ago. From a current scientific viewpoint, the basal group of reptiles - the Paraves - split to form two groups: the Avialae (becoming birds over time); and the Deinonychosauria. 


However, a new paper in the journal Nature by Xing Xu et al. has involved examination of a newly discovered fossil species from this group, Xiaotingia, from China.  This organism was very similar to Archaeopteryx and the question arose of whether Archaeopteryx should be placed in the Avialae or the Deinonychosauria: which branch? Systematic scientific investigation of several Archaeopteryx fossils, Xiaotingia, and other fossils, suggests initially that Achaeopteryx does not fall into the same group as the birds - the Avialae. This involved examination of the NHM Archaeopteryx, illustrating the importance of collections as a continuing reference resource for science.


The research suggests that Archaeopteryx is not an ancestral bird in the Avialae, but should instead be seen as a member of the Deinonychosauria, along with Xiaotingia.  This finding will cause considerable controversy in science as results are scrutinised and discussed and further evidence amassed.  Future fossil findings will add further data that may add detail and support for different positions, but reference to the original fossils will continue to be essential.  One point of interest will be that the characteristic feathers and skeleton of Archaeopteryx show that this character combination may not have been restricted to birds alone, but seems to have been found in a wider group of reptiles.

 

Witmer L M Palaeontology: An icon knocked from its perch Nature 475, 458–459 (28 July 2011) doi:10.1038/475458a Published online 27 July 2011


Xing Xu,Hailu You,Kai Du & Fenglu Han An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae Nature 475, 465–470 (28 July 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10288 Published online 27 July 2011