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Large-scale digitisation options at the Natural History Museum, London.

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An invited presentation to the Science Information Committee of the Natural History Museum, London, UK. November 6, 2009.

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Large-scale digitisation options at the Natural History Museum, London.

  1. 1. “ We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time , think critically about it, and make important choices ” E. O. Wilson | Harvard University
  2. 2. 500 Years to digitise - forget it!
  3. 3. We need some fresh thinking Stop thinking about individual specimens (especially types)!
  4. 4. We need to standardise & simplify Focus on whole collections that have a standard form, e.g. draws & slides
  5. 5. Metadata capture is rate limiting <ul><li>Surrogate and metadata don’t need to be captured together </li></ul><ul><li>Tie them back together with identifiers as required </li></ul><ul><li>Engaging the public (mechanical turk) with metadata capture </li></ul><ul><li>Its metadata capture we prioritise </li></ul><ul><li>We should digitise everything at low resolution </li></ul><ul><li>Low resolution images tell us 75% of what we want to know </li></ul>Separate metadata capture from digitisation. Metadata is what you prioritise
  6. 6. Barcode Everything No metadata recorded. We just add a standard number to specimens
  7. 7. SatScan Collections by smartdrive High Resolution - Low Distortion <ul><li>LOW COST </li></ul><ul><li>Fast to use </li></ul><ul><li>UK company </li></ul>Low tech reliable equipment
  8. 8. 1mm Fossil zoomed in from imaged 500x500mm samples draw Single moth from a 500x500mm display case imaged in full at 1000 DPI
  9. 9. Images are “good enough” <ul><li>High resolution </li></ul><ul><li>No distortion </li></ul><ul><li>(No parallax or edge effects) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Indexing Conveyor Inspection Module Museum Trays Camera Loading / Unloading Area Loading / Unloading Area 1.2 Mtr 1.2 Mtr 1 Mtr 700 mm All dimensions are approximate – do not scale SmartDrive TrayScan System with Infeed / Outfeed Conveyor Concept Illustration Positioning Guides (Flites) Conveyor approach for draws Digitise whole collections quickly
  11. 11. SmartDrive MicroScan System with Microscope Slide Tray Loader on Gliding Framework Concept Illustration Slide Tray Glide Mechanism Inspection Module SlideTrays with 'Locations' Fibre Optic Illuminator 500mm 1200mm All dimensions are approximate – do not scale Conveyor approach 1 for slides
  12. 12. Conveyor approach 2 for slides
  13. 13. Metadata capture <ul><li>This is what we prioritise </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on topics - not taxa </li></ul><ul><li>We need to be innovative </li></ul><ul><li>Engage the public </li></ul>
  14. 14. Innovative metadata capture
  15. 15. Guiding Principles 1. “ No specimen left behind ” (for collections being digitised) 2. Everything has a barcode (unique identifier) 3. Universally agreed across NHM digitisation projects <ul><li>Further issues </li></ul><ul><li>This approach is not appropriate for everything, but works for most! </li></ul><ul><li>Digital storage - NHM is not thinking clearly about this </li></ul><ul><li>Separating images of specimens from the main image </li></ul><ul><li>Moving specimens (see above) </li></ul><ul><li>Adding new specimens (temporary draws digitised) </li></ul><ul><li>Private or EU funding (its not science, however…) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research on issues (handling, processing, storage) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public / wider engagement - mechanical turk aspects </li></ul></ul>Much less than 500 Years! We need to build up the WHY case - what are the benefits Summary
  16. 16. “ Why Case” - Examples <ul><li>Supporting the monitoring of environmental change… </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting biodiversity conservation… </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting the sustainable economic use biodiversity… </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting the preservation and use of biological collections… </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting biodiversity research communities and networks… </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting education and training activities… </li></ul>We should prioritise metadata capture around these issues Where possible we should digitise (create surrogates of) everything Controversially, I think digitisation should EVENTUALLY be part of our core business. Metadata capture is NOT part of our core business (it is externally fundable) Also metadata capture is hard to predict - see Ed. Wilson’s quote
  17. 17. “ We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time , think critically about it, and make important choices ” E. O. Wilson | Harvard University

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