Natural History Specimen Digitization: Challenges and Concerns

TitleNatural History Specimen Digitization: Challenges and Concerns
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsVollmar, A., Macklin J. A., and Ford L. S.
JournalBiodiversity Informatics
A survey on the challenges and concerns involved with digitizing natural history specimens was circulated to curators, collections managers, and administrators in the natural history community in the Spring of 2009, with over 200 responses received. The overwhelming barrier to digitizing collections was a lack of funding or issues directly related to funding, leaving institutions mostly responsible for providing the necessary support. The uneven digitization landscape leads to a patchy accumulation of records at varying qualities, and based on different priorities, ultimately influencing the data's fitness for use. The survey results also indicated that although the kind of specimens found in collections and their storage can be quite variable, there are many similar challenges across disciplines when digitizing including imaging, automated text scanning and parsing, geo-referencing, etc. Thus, better communication between domains could foster knowledge on digitization leading to efficiencies that could be disseminated through documentation of best practices and training.