Notes from Nature

Transcribing bird collection records for Notes from Nature

At a glance

Transcribe bird collection records.

Type of activity: Online

Who can take part? Everyone

When? Any time

How long will it take? About 15 minutes per page

Cost: Free

Transcribe handwritten historical records to help make our bird collection available digitally to researchers worldwide.

Why we are doing the project

The Museum cares for over 780,000 bird specimens - a mixture of mounted birds, skins, eggs and skeletons. Between 1837 and 1990, each specimen that entered the collection was listed in a handwritten register with vital information such as the species name, the date it arrived and where it was collected.

Each specimen was given a unique registration number that appears on a label attached to the bird. Unfortunately, because the information in the registers is not available digitally, it can't be easily linked to the physical specimens.

Through Notes from Nature you can transcribe these handwritten records and make them available digitally, giving scientists around the globe access to the data from one of the world's largest research collections.

Notes from Nature is a Zooniverse project.

How to take part

1. Go to the ornithological section of the Notes from Nature website.

2. (Optional) Sign up for a Zooniverse account. By registering, you can ask questions and take part in discussions in the Notes from Nature talk section.

3. Watch the video tutorial to learn how to accurately transcribe the records.

4. Select 'Start transcribing' and enter the page number displayed.

5. Select the 'New row' button on the top left, drag the green line down to the first row and follow the step-by-step instructions. After you complete each row, select the 'New row' button and reposition the green line.

6. Complete a full page, then select 'Finish'.

Some handwriting can be hard to decipher. Enjoy the challenge, but don't worry if you're not sure what it says. Each record is shown to multiple people, so any errors get smoothed out.

Results so far

More than 300,000 bird specimen records have been transcribed so far on Notes for Nature. This is a fantastic amount of work and we are hugely grateful to the many dedicated people who have given their time to work on this project. Some super individuals have each transcribed thousands of specimen records - an impressive contribution to the Museum and the global research community.

There are still many records to transcribe, so there is plenty more to do.

For updates on the project, follow the Notes from Nature blog.

Project team

  • Dr Robert Prys-Jones, Bird Collections Manager
  • Tim Conyers, Database Manager: Zoological Collections
  • Lawrence Brooks, Database Manager: Botanical Collections

About the Museum's bird collection

Resources to help you take part

Video tutorial on YouTube

Notes from Nature talk section, where you can ask questions or report issues.

Take part in the Notes from Nature project