Museums including London’s Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian in Washington DC are working to create a “global digital museum” to bring fossils out from the archives.
Museums are five years in to ambitious plans to digitise millions of fossils. It will take an estimated 50 years to digitise the Smithsonian’s full 40 million fossil collection.
Kathy Hollis from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, told the BBC: “We are trying to make our entire collection available digitally for researchers to use online from anywhere in the world.
“And we’re pretty sure that this is the largest fossil collection in the world.
“We have over 40 million specimens in the collection – it records the entire history of life, so if it has a fossil representative, it’s likely here within the collection.”
“There are drawers here in the museum that haven’t been opened for decades.
“So we’re bringing all of this data out into the light for research.”
In the digitisation process, museums will capture high quality images and information such as age, species, where the specimen was discovered. This will then be made available online to researchers.
Museums don’t have unlimited space, and often there are thousands of artefacts that can’t be displayed. At the Museum of London’s Archeology collection, collections manager Adam Corsini had a unique solution called ArchiveLottery.
Via Twitter, Skype or in person – guests can select a random number which corresponds to an item in the collection. Staff then describe the item, and tell the story behind it.
Images courtesy Natural History Museum