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Digistreets

Digitizing the various object of the natural history collection of Naturalis in an industrial setting.  

Seven million objects will be digitized at the specimen level. This work is done in a digistreet. Here all individual objects are tagged with a barcode, their basic metadata are recorded in a database, and a high-resolution photo or scan of both the object and its label(s) is taken. The containers in which the specimens are grouped are allocated a barcode and registered as well, allowing any object to be located quickly.

Metadata registration

Within the projects the registration of a specific set of information is targeted: data required for collection management and data important for research purposes. Most of this work is done by the specialists in the digistreets. They register the zoological and geological data in the Central Registration System (CRS), an online registration system developed by Naturalis for accessing the Naturalis collection, and botanical data in BRAHMS, a botanical database management system used by research institutions globally.

Various digistreets

The natural history collection of Naturalis consists of a wide variety of objects. The objects can be grouped according to how they are stored and the treatment method associated with this: for example stuffed animals, microscopic preparations and organisms in formaldehyde. The digitization has been set up on the basis of treatment method used, as this allows a production line approach to digitization. For each digistreet, work processes appropriate to the objects concerned have been elaborated. In the end nine digitstreets were set up, each with its own final target:

Digistreet

Total number
Herbarium  4,400,000
Mollusks  600,000
Alcohol  100,000
Entomology   850,000
Wood 125,000
Vertebrates an evertebrates (dry)  325,000
Glass (microscopic preparations)  900,000
Paper/2D  820,000
Mollusks old/geology 200,000

Production processes

Each street has its own production process. You can see how the production process proceeds for the digitization of microscopic preparations in the glass street.

In this street, the preparations and their storage units (drawers or containers) are given a barcode. The preparations are scanned in large molds after which they are once again safely returned to the collection towers. With the help of software each preparation is subsequently cropped from the total scan. The images of the preparations are used for the further registration of the metadata on the labels.

There are also digistreets where the metadata are directly registered from the objects. In the following video you can see how this is done during the digitization of the entomology collection.

Entomology video


Crowdsourcing

Most of the registration work is done in the digistreets, but Naturalis has asked the general public for help as well. A Dutch crowdsourcing application was developed for the microscopic slide collection that volunteers at home can use to transcribe the specimen labels visible on the scans made in the digistreet. Within 10 months time the labels of a 100,000 object had been transcribed by the public through this project.