From The Conversation:
The great museums of the world harbor a secret: They’re home to millions upon millions of natural history specimens that almost never see the light of day. They lie hidden from public view, typically housed behind or above the public exhibit halls, or in off-site buildings.
What’s on public display represents only the tiniest fraction of the wealth of knowledge under the stewardship of each museum. Beyond fossils, museums are the repositories for what we know of the world’s living species, as well as much of our own cultural history.
But now digital technologies – including the internet, interoperable databases and rapid imaging techniques – make it possible to electronically aggregate museum data. Researchers, including a multi-institutional team I am leading, are laying the foundation for the coherent use of these millions of specimens. Across the globe, teams are working to bring these “dark data” – currently inaccessible via the web – into the digital light.
The Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio) site hosts all the major museum digitization efforts in the United States funded by the current NSF initiative that began in 2011.
NOTE: The author of the article linked above is also the lead author of this recently published article in Biology Letters (14: 2018043).