I have recently been working on a potentially very interesting little project. The Index to the Pittioni Bee Collection may not sound like cutting edge entomology, but there is a lot of information locked up inside the three maroon boxes it resides in. Among this information is some important information on pollinators.
One of the problems is that the hundreds of record cards, many of them with 10s of individual records, are at the Natural History Museum, London. They are also hand-written in what is often illegible (at least to me) handwriting. Digitising these records is the obvious solution - but how to go about it?
First of all the cards were quickly scanned using a ScanSnap Scanner - a process that I managed in slightly over a morning.
Currently I am going through the cards, rotating a few where the ScanSnap orientated them incorrectly and removing any images of cards with no relevant data. This process is being done in a Scratchpad. The site is online, but the content is currently restricted. Once unwanted images have been removed we will make the images available for anybody to view - a relatively minor piece of what Rod Page would probably call silo-breaking.
We then plan to develop a method for transcribing the cards within the website. This will allow interested parties to develop the images into a fully searchable databse of the index, increasing its usefulness dramatically in the process. This would essentially be crowd-sourcing in a similiar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk - but with the only payment being a more useful resoruce for everybody.
Since starting this Paul Williams at the Natural History Museum (the Bumblebee man) alerted me to some webpages he has placed on the NHM website - there's some very interesting information in here, it's well worth a read.
I have also noticed a few articles about bees in the press, one tells the tale of a beekeeper murdering a rival over honey. The rest I will save for another post!
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Labels: amazon, bumble bee, digitisation, Natural History Museum, paul williams, pittioni, scratchpad
I work on projects related to technology and taxonomy at the Natural History Museum, and as an advisor for the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. My interests are in entomology (stick insects, cockroaches and insect acoustics) and how technology can change the way research is done in biology and museums. Big fan of open access, open data and open hardware.
Copyright Ed Baker