Specimen collections are the primary research archives documenting the biological diversity of plants and animals on this planet. Information from specimens is fundamental to biodiversity research, education and natural resource management. Digital technology greatly facilitates information retrieval from globally distributed natural history collections. Currently, however, most of the 2.5 billion collections worldwide remain unavailable in the electronic domain. More than 100 million botanical specimens in herbaria are no exception, with less than five percent data records digitized.
Specimens in the Yale University Herbarium collection date as far back as 160 years, making it an important national historical collection. Yale required a solution that would make 350,000 specimen labels searchable by scientists and educators at a global level, without incurring vast amounts of manual labor to key the historical data.
This project is being conducted as part of Yale’s HERBIS project, a collaboration with the New York Botanical Garden and University of Illinois and Urbana-Champagne, and is funded through the National Science Foundation. HERBIS is making informatics tools, including a2ia DocumentReader, available for specimen image and data capture.
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