Carnegie Museum of Natural History Workshop: Overcoming Obstacles to Digitization


In collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), iDigBio hosted a digitization workshop from May 20-22, 2024 in Pittsburgh, PA. Participants were afforded a valuable opportunity to expand their skills, network with other local institutions, and drive forward museum-wide digitization efforts through a blend of informative presentations and hands-on demonstrations. The workshop was designed to equip the Carnegie Museum of Natural History staff with the essential tools and insights for navigating the complexities associated with the digitization of natural history collections. The event began with a talk on Current Work and Next Steps for the Natural History Collections Community by iDigBio’s Libby Ellwood, as part of CMNH’s Moriarty seminar series. Museum curators and staff graciously followed this with collection tours, showcasing specimen treasures and incredible stories of the museum’s history.

The following day began with a warm welcome from Gretchen Baker, CMNH Director, and a virtual visit from National Science Foundation Program Officers Steve Ellis and Katharina Ditrmar, who presented potential funding opportunities for collections and biodiversity research.  A distinguished panel of community experts and iDigBio staff led the rest of the workshop, allowing participants to deepen their understanding and actively engage with digitization concepts and techniques. They explored the nuts and bolts of digitization, DIY approaches, and practical solutions for common challenges with limited budgets. Kalina Jakymec (iDigBio, Florida State University) provided a foundational understanding of digitization and relevant workflows to get us all on the same page. This also set the stage for Katie Pearson (iDigBio, Symbiota Support Hub, Arizona State University) and Jessica Utrup (Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History) to initiate what would become a two-day discussion on collection management systems, dueling between Symbiota and EMu, with additional input from Specify users and others. 

Michael Denslow kicked off the final day with the latest and greatest from Notes from Nature and ways that collections can engage with the public in community science activities. Victoria Tran and Nelson Rios (Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History) presented everything one needs to know about photography along their actual imaging workflow. A highlight of the workshop was a series of dynamic lightning talks by Carnegie Museum of Natural History staff –  Mason Heberling, Lisa Haney, Marie Corrado, Tim Pearce, Ainsley Seago, Kathy Hollis – showcasing an impressive variety of internal successes and research projects.

Thanks to CMNH for working with us on this workshop! We look forward to continuing our discussions.