Between 2010 and 2015, Naturalis Biodiversity Center is realizing one of the largest projects for natural history collection digitization to date. At least 37 million objects will be digitized, including 7 million objects on a high level detail. The project is being funded by the Dutch Economic Structure Enhancing Fund (FES).
Digitizing the collection - Naturalis Biodiversity Center
The aims of the project are that before mid-2015:
- at least 7 million objects have been digitized at object level
- the other 30 million objects have been rendered accessible at the storage unit level (drawers, containers)
- a permanent digital infrastructure has been realized so that the collection can continue to be digitized after the end of the project.
For the successful realization of this complex operation, industrial-like processes and decision-making frameworks were devised. The 7 million objects are grouped in 9 categories which all require a customized approach due to their differences in material. Therefore, specialized digitization teams (‘digistreets’) were formed, each of which targets a specific category. This specialization means that an industrial approach could be adopted, which brings down both the handling time and costs per item.
Why digitize collections?
Naturalis hopes to reach several goals with this project. It will increase the virtual accessibility of the collection, which will facilitate research worldwide and enable consultancy to business and government. Collection management will be more efficient, as the exact location of objects will be known. This will protect specimens from over-handling and will provide better tools for quality checks. The high-resolution photographs or scans allow for
detailed on-screen examination of some of the objects, which will also aid the preservation of the objects themselves.
Access to the digital collections
One of the goals of this project is to increase the accessibility of the collections by making a digital copy available online. Bioportal, a Naturalis portal to the digital collections, is currently being developed. Other portals that give access to (parts of) the collections are Gbif, BHL and Europeana. With these portals Naturalis can promote knowledge through education and support dissemination to interest groups.