Peabody Museum collaboration to provide access to fossil collections

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Using a process developed by the Yale Peabody Museum, Division of Invertebrate Paleontology museum assistant Jessica Utrup uses voice recognition software to expedite imaging of tens of thousands of fossils.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with eight renowned museums, will provide access to major collections of fossil insect specimens in the United States. Collections managers Chris Norris and Susan Butts will lead Yale’s contribution to the $2.3 million project, funded by the National Science Foundation program Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections.

Over the next four years the project will make nearly half a million fossil insect specimens, images and associated data available to the researchers, students, and the general public, through an online hub called iDigPaleo. Mobile apps and educational activities also will be developed to encourage users to experience and interact directly with the collections.

The fossil collection will be digitized by Yale undergraduate and graduate students, and by undergraduates from University of Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University. Yale will aggregate data and images into a database, along with information from other institutions to make the data available for researchers investigating climate change.

Yale is also developing tools that will enable a broad range of users to experience and interact directly with the collections. As a central portal, iDigPaleo will utilize social networking technology to facilitate the use of collections for research, teaching, and exploration. Community activities will be developed in collaboration with local K-12 teachers and field-tested by high school students participating in the Peabody’s Evolutions after school program.

The Fossil Insect Collaborative is a joint venture between the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the American Museum of Natural History, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, the University of Illinois Natural History Survey, the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, the National Museum of Natural History, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. 

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