May 25, 2022

“Digitizing the Vast ‘Dark Data’ in Museum Fossil Collections”

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.

Read the Complete Article (approx. 1350 words)

NOTE: The author of the article linked above is also the lead author of this recently published article in Biology Letters (14: 2018043).

Direct to Full Text: “Quantifying The Dark Data In Museum Fossil Collections As Palaeontology Undergoes A Second Digital Revolution”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.