Digitising Lepidoptera of the British Isles: iCollections

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We are digitising more than half a million British and Irish butterflies and moths, as a pilot for the digitisation of all pinned collections.

The project is the first pilot for the mass digitisation of the Museum's 80 million natural history specimens.

We are testing and refining our methods so they can be applied to the digitisation of other pinned collections.

The digitised specimen data is being used to investigate a range of major scientific and conservation questions.

Methods

The team is currently digitising one specimen every 2.9 minutes and has taken a year to capture all the specimen level data for the butterflies.

Capturing specimen-level data in the collection is complex and involves five main steps

Distribution

See where in the UK the Museum's orange tip butterflies were collected during the past 150 years.

As we digitise the Lepidoptera collections we are georeferencing each record, mapping the distribution of the collections and revealing collecting trends since the mid-nineteenth century.

To do this we take the locality data from each specimen label and convert it to a geographic centroid that can be mapped.

The maps show the geographical locations where specimens have been collected. The data allows us to determine the geographical coverage of Lepidoptera species in the collection over time.

These data can also be used in conjunction with other data to investigate a range of major scientific and conservation questions.

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Georeferencing: The locality data on the labels is georeferenced to a geographic centroid that can be mapped.

Project summary

  • Focus: To digitise more than half a million British and Irish butterflies and moths, as a pilot for the digitisation of all pinned collections
  • Funding: Cockayne Trust
  • Start date: 2013
  • End date: 2016

Project team

Chair

Collections management

KE EMu quality assurance and control

  • Darrell Siebert

Workflows

Database and interfaces

  • Adrian Hine
  • Chris Sleep
  • Mike Sadka

Research

Digitisation Team

  • Peter Wing
  • Elisa Cane
  • Flavia Toloni
  • Jasmin Perera
  • Sophie Ledger
  • Robyn Crowther
  • Elisabetta Scialabba

Georeferencing

Digital Museum

We are digitising 80 million specimens from our collections to an online data portal.

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Digital collections programme

Establishing high-throughput digital capture workflows for collection types.

Entomology collections

Over 34 million insects and arachnids in one of the oldest and most important collections in the world.