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UK-SWANS Practical Digitisation Workshop
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Date: 9 March 2018, 8:45 AM - 16:45 PM


UK-SWANS Practical Digitisation Workshop. Participants at this event are staff caring for small and regional collections, essentially, non-national museum curators. This workshop will key in on ideas, models, and training for incorporating digitization at this level. The goals are to focus on practical recommendations that require very little in the way of additional budget or expertise where possible. Practical training may be offered in one or two key areas, for example, georeferencing, data standards, and review of recommendations based on the Five Task Clusters paper (Nelson, et al 2012). Future plans include repeating this event for other regional (non-national museum) UK curators.


This one-day event is funded by the John Ellerman Foundation and led by the UK's Bristol City Council's Culture Team as part of the 'South West Area Natural Sciences' (SWANS) project. Organizers include Bristol Culture, iDigBio and the Natural History Museum, London. People coordinating this workshop include: Isla Gladstone, Deborah Paul, Greg Riccardi, and Gil Nelson.


group notes google doc

Time Topic Presenter / Facilitator
8:45 Coffee
9:00 Welcome & 5 minute stand ups
your collection in focus
Royal Albert Museum Exeter H. Morgenroth
Royal Albert Museum Exeter H. Burbage
Bristol Culture Museum D. Hutchinson
Bristol Culture Museum R. Rowson
Plymouth Museum J. Freedman
University of Bristol Earth Sciences C. Hildebrandt
9:45 Workshop goals & structure
why are we here?
Isla Gladstone
9:50 What is digitisation? Getting to GBIF and beyond Greg Riccardi
10:00 A framework: the 5+ task clusters


pre-digitization curation and staging
specimen image capture
specimen image processing
electronic data capture
georeferencing specimen data
+ personnel
+ workflows
+ biodiversity informatics managers (or not)
Gil Nelson
10:05 Pre-digitisation curation
decisions, decisions, practical and policy
10:30 Specimen image capture & processing
best practices, current trends
Gil Nelson
11:00 Coffee
11:20 Data capture
best practices, options, lessons learned
Data Capture workflow tasks (.pdf) docx version
Deborah Paul
11:50 Practical: Data standards (Darwin Core+)
making data shareable
Darwin Core Terms
Royal Albert Dataset
Royal Albert Mapping Exercise
Royal Albert mapped spreadsheet
Bristol Cultural Museum - Biology
University of Bristol - Geology Collection
Greg Riccardi, Deborah Paul
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Managing data, a new resource
who will do it?
workflows documentation and sharing
Gil Nelson
14:30 Practical Exercise for Geo-referencing specimen data
getting your specimens on the map
Georeferencing Task Module (pdf) (assumes legacy data)
Georeferencing Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
NHM Version of the Georeferencing QRG
Guide to Best Practices for Georeferencing - Chapman, A.D. and J. Wieczorek (eds). 2006
Capturing New Locality Data - Good-Bad Localities (doc)
Georeferencing Concepts and Locality Types (pptx)
Georeferencing 5-day Course: materials at iDigBio
GEOLocate by CSV web app
DEMO localities to georeference
iCollections – Digitising the British and Irish Butterflies in the Natural History Museum, London
Internet Resources
Marine Georeferencing Hints
Deborah Paul
15:30 Coffee
15:50 Data publishing
pathways to publishing
importance of metadata
expectations, benefits, research
Greg Riccardi
16:20 Community resources
sharing knowledge of worldwide expertise, materials
Deborah Paul, All
16:30 Wrap up
final surgery
See Mini Self-Assessment Review and possible next steps
next steps
group photo
16:45 Close

Marine Georeferencing

This section added post-workshop to address outstanding questions in the group about how to georeference (geocode) marine localities.

General guidelines and hints

For a locality like "Puget Anne Sound, 10 fathoms deep", suggestions here from the Georeferencing Working Group (iDigBio GWG) and OBIS.

  1. Ship and date of collection -- if the name of the ship and the date of collection are known, then one can look up the ship logs/itineraries, and find where that particular ship was on that particular day. Sometimes, even coordinates are given in the ship logs. Other times, the ship log will not include specific data for the collecting event, but flanking events will be included, so one can "interpolate" between the two.
  2. Depth -- when just a ballpark area is given, then the depth can help narrow down the uncertainty radius (much like elevation can do this for localities on land).
  3. Reefs or other ocean floor topography are always useful, if they are mentioned.
  4. Only other helpful information I can think of are bearings given from lighthouses, or even buoys (when georeferencing Fish collections from the Great Lakes, it was common for collectors to give these as reference points).
  • Another response to my query shared that marine data is not always so fit for use (better perhaps in OBIS than in other places). So we are looking into how we might help to better reach those using Darwin Core fields for what is expected / needed in particular fields to make these marine localities useful for research.
  • Pieter Provoost p.provoost@UNESCO.ORG, from OBIS, georeferenced "Puget Anne Sound, 10 fathoms deep" and shared his process and results here:
    • We make extensive use of MarineRegions, and we also have a simple map tool at Maptool which connects to the MarineRegions API for georeferencing and makes it easier to produce WKT strings for points, lines and polygons.
    • This is how I would handle "Puget Anne Sound, 10 fathoms deep" for example:
verbatimLocality: Puget Sound
locality: Puget Sound
verbatimDepth: 10 fathoms deep
minimumDepthInMeters: 18
maximumDepthInMeters: 18
decimalLongitude: -122.43
decimalLatitude: 47.83
coordinateUncertaintyInMeters: 20000
footprintWKT: POLYGON ((-122.40555 47.56726, -122.50168 47.59505, -122.53601 47.91450, -122.32178 47.90438, -122.40555 47.56726))
  • From Deb: a bit about the above Darwin Core fields. We discussed most of them (briefly!) at the workshop.
    • First, note they have used the locationID field. In the Marine Regions database, certain marine areas have a globally unique identifier. So, using the Marine Regions database, they are populating the locationID field with this unique string. You don't have to use the locationID field, but in situations where the specific region is well defined in Marine Regions it can make good sense to do so - to be very clear about "where" you are. Note that some groups might visit the same marine location repeatedly (right?). And they may have given that marine locality a name, like "Station 67." That's a "local ID" good for communicating a locality to this specific group. IF, "Station 67" provides a unique locationID within the dataset you are publishing, you can put "Station 67" in the dwc:locationID field. In this case, you'll often have local knowledge (maps, journals, ships logs, etc.) about the exact area that is meant by "Station 67" - that you can / will use to georeference that entry.
    • It's clear what Pieter put for verbatimLocality, locality, and verbatimDepth. You can see then that he converted fathoms to meters.
    • Next, he placed a point in the center of Puget Sound and gave it an uncertainty. In essence he put a circle around the point - to enclose all the possible places in Puget Sound - where this specimen could be collected. Note that the value is really a "radius" of the circle (that has as its center, the latitude and longitude provided). The footprintWKT is a set of x,y coordinates that when joined by lines produces a polygon around the lat/lon point. Often polygons allow one to reduce the uncertainty compared to putting a circle around a point. But, they can get quite large (and so difficult to store in a spreadsheet or in a database). The take-home msg for this part is to talk to your IT people.

Hope you find this useful. Note that Pieter shares they'll add some more examples to the OBIS manual.

Some more potentially useful bits I found:

  • And Jessica Utrup (jessica.bazeley AT YALE.EDU) added:
    • NOAA provides amazing nautical charts which often have marine "landmarks" (rock formations, canyons, points, etc.) that aren’t usually found online. And what’s nice, the names almost never change. So if you have an old locality that says "off Such & Such Point" the name probably hasn’t changed in 100 years. Also, the depth information can help limit the possible localities. Here is a site that provides online charts for free.