Microscope Slide Digitisation

The Museum has around 2.5 million microscope slides in its collections, which are either vertically or horizontally stored.

i) Whole slide digitisation

The Digital Collections Programme has developed a slide digitisation workflow and increased its efficiency by using temporary labels with Data Matrix barcodes that encode metadata about the specimen. On average it takes just 16 seconds to image a slide. The record number of slides imaged by one digitiser in a single day is 1,006.

We image each whole slide, capturing both the specimen(s) and the associated labels. By using additional temporary metadata labels we can encode information in Data Matrix barcodes about the taxonomy, type status and the slide’s location in the collection. These temporary labels enable us to create an inventory specimen record through semi-automated processes, which speeds up the process and reduces the potential for human error. Additional label data such as the date and locality where the specimen was collected, who collected it etc will need to be transcribed from the specimen labels post-imaging.

ii) Specimen imaging

As the specimen(s) cannot be seen in detail in the whole slide images, higher magnification imaging is required for specimen level imaging. Using a DSLR camera with a macro lens, we can capture specimen level images up to 5x magnification. Currently, we take higher resolution specimen images of type material, which are specimens on which the formal scientific name and description are based. 

For up to date news on the Museum’s slide digitisation please follow the Digital Collections Programme’s twitter and the Museum’s blog.

Digital Collections Programme

We are establishing mass digitisation workflows to digitise one of the world's most important natural history collections

Digital Collections blog

With 80 million specimens to digitise, we have 80 million stories to share