NHM spearheads initiative to digitize natural science collections

The Natural History Museum in London is set to lead a new £155 million initiative to digitize the UK’s natural science collections. Over the course of 10 years, DiSSCo UK will see approximately 90 museums across the UK participate in this project, which is funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The natural science collections in the UK comprise over 137 million items that researchers use to address global challenges such as biodiversity loss and food security. By digitizing these collections, a vast data set will be created for the next generation of environmental scientists to solve ecological challenges.

Science Secretary Michelle Donelan stated that this program will enable researchers to use museum collections to find solutions to global issues such as climate change-resistant crops and identifying the location of future pandemics through the study of bats. The Natural History Museum, which manages a collection of 80 million specimens, has already digitized nearly 6 million items and published them.

Furthermore, the museum’s scientists are exploring the use of a robot arm to move and photograph specimens faster than a human, 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 excited to lead this crucial project.

By Riley Johnson

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