NHM spearheads initiative to digitize natural science collections

The Natural History Museum in London will spearhead a new £155 million initiative to digitize the UK’s natural science collections. This 10-year project, called DiSSCo UK, is funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, with approximately 90 museums across the UK taking part.

The natural science collections in the UK are vast, consisting of over 137 million items that researchers use to tackle global challenges such as biodiversity loss and food security. By digitizing these collections, a comprehensive dataset will be created for future generations of environmental scientists to solve ecological problems.

Science Secretary Michelle Donelan stated that this program will allow researchers to utilize museum collections to address pressing issues such as climate change-resistant crops and identifying the location of future pandemics through studying bats. The Natural History Museum, which currently manages a collection of 80 million specimens, has already digitized nearly 6 million items and made them available online.

Furthermore, the museum’s scientists are exploring the use of a robot arm to move and photograph specimens more quickly than a human would, which would enhance the scale, speed, and impact of the UK digitization project. The director of the Natural History Museum, Doug Gurr, mentioned that the UK’s natural science collections totaling more than 138 million specimens are diverse and represent a treasure trove of data. Embracing AI and robotics advancements can be a transformative opportunity for science globally, creating impacts in sectors such as food, health, energy, and the environment. The museum is thrilled to lead this vital project.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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