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Connecting Content 

June 7, 2012

Ria D’Aversa, Creating Partnerships through Digitization- Guest blogger

Here at California Academy of Sciences I work on the Global Plants Initiative (GPI) project in the Botany department. Like Connecting Content, it aims to provide scientific resources and materials to the public through an online platform. In the instance of GPI the materials are botanical type specimens, which are, simply put, the specimen cited by the author of any new botanical species. These specimens offer essential information including plant type and description, collecting location, and nomenclatural evolutions. The plant specimens are photographed in the Botany department. The images are then sent to our partner organization JSTOR, who uploads the information to the project page (http://plants.jstor.org). These efforts provide distant researchers, students, and amateur botanists a more accessible opportunity to study plants and botanical history. Many people can now focus on their areas of botanical interest from their home computer instead of traveling to the Academy for research.

cas00035271

(CAS0003527) Isotype of Scalesia stewartii Riley

At the GPI conference this year I highlighted Connecting Content’s efforts to digitize field collections and field notes of the botanist Alban Stewart from the Academy’s 1905-06 Galapagos expedition. The Botany department holds many important botanical collections from the Galapagos expeditions, including the pivotal 1905-06 journey. In the future I would like to use the ancillary materials (field notes, correspondence, photographs, and drawings) from the Academy archives for the GPI project in collaboration with Connecting Content. It would be a significant intersection between the Botany department and library collections, which would hopefully provide the public with additional resources to dissect and learn from.

Telanthera nudicaulis, Hook. Holotype collected by Col. Alban Stewart on the CAS expedition to the Galapagos Islands, 1905-1906.

(CAS0000313) Holotype of Alternanthera filifolia subsp. glauca J. T. Howell

Research institutions are moving quickly toward new media with most providing their collections online. Both Connecting Content and GPI illustrate how we are establishing partnerships with other institutions in order to provide and promote the best research materials for future scientific study.

-Ria D’Aversa


August 16, 2011

Connecting Content visits NightLife

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on July 21, 2011

Thursday night, July 14, was the Academy’s ‘Crafty’ themed NightLife which featured an array of booths from Bizarre Bazaar selling hand-made items from local artists. The Library and Archives had a chance to discuss Connecting Content, an IMLS grant-funded project, and to talk about collection theory, both historically and within contemporary situations. Of course, our visitors were enacting their own ‘collecting’ by selecting objects and purchasing them from the Bizarre Bazaar booths, perhaps adding these objects to what could be considered a collection at home on their walls, in their drawers, or even choosing to wear them.

There were two parts of this display. First, a table was set up next to the Project Lab that displayed Ole Worm’s (1588-1654) book Museum Wormianum, showing his “cabinet of curiosities” in Copenhagen, finches from the Galapagos Islands often referred to as “Darwin’s finches,” and a photograph of the 1905-06 Academy of Science Galapagos expedition team. Visitors approached this display and were given glimpses into why these people collected their specimens, with Project Manager Daina Dickman available to provide additional information. The second part to this display was the Collections Scanning Intern Stephanie Stewart-Bailey with a desk drawer full of ‘curiosities’ on loan from the Naturalist Center. She wandered around the museum floor having conversations with visitors and playing a guessing game of “what do you think this object is?” Through this display Stephanie hoped to introduce the idea to visitors that collecting occurs first due to curiosity.

This game fostered the idea that collectors found these animals and other such specimens, curious. The second step after noticing something was curious was to draw out further knowledge from them. Stephanie then showed the visitors the table with the Library and Archives display of examples of historic natural history collections.

By participating in NightLife, the Library and Archive’s Connecting Content project was shown directly to the public, initiating participatory discussions with visitors over collection theory and how some projects at the California Academy of Sciences deal with both historic and contemporary collecting methods.

–Stephanie Stewart-Bailey


Filed under: Fieldnotes,Interns,Specimens — ddickman @ 11:08 am

Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Digitization Project Update: Imaging Finch Specimens

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on May 12, 2011

I am almost at the end of my 16-week internship at the Academy Library, and I am excited to have started imaging finch specimens. This is part of the Connecting Content project, which has been made possible with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of the project the finch specimen images will be available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

During the first few months of the project I worked on digitizing the expedition field notes while we prepared for imaging the finches. A lot of planning and experimenting had to be done before we could begin, and I learned a lot along the way.

The finch collection from this expedition consists of over 4,000 specimens; this includes numerous species collected from many of the islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Before beginning this project, the project staff had to figure out how we would select the 1,000 specimens that will be imaged as our sample from this collection.

Through our selection process we want to provide researchers and users with a balanced and deep collection, so we are imaging a proportional sample of each species, including an equal sampling of male and female specimens, from every island where they were collected.

One of the goals of this project is to provide researchers with the ability to view these images online and conduct research remotely, so it was important that we considered image quality, camera angles, and image uniformity. After discussions with staff scientists and researchers we are taking six images of each specimen, from different points of view. This includes shots of the ventral (belly), dorsal (back), lateral (side), and head/beak of the finches, as well as the front and back sides of the collection tags. The collection tags are important as they contain information such as the genus, species, collection date, specimen number, and the island where they were collected.

The bird specimens must be handled carefully. Although they are quite rigid, some parts of them may break or come off with rough or excessive handling, particularly their feathers and legs. Each specimen is gently placed on a uniform background with a ruler and a color bar before the photograph is taken. The color bar allows us, as well as the user, to gauge color representation and accuracy.

The camera that we are using for this part of the project is a Canon E05 5D with a 50mm lens. It creates highly detailed and crisp images. One can zoom in and view incredible detail, including individual strands of feathers, and even dandruff particles. The camera is attached to a custom-built mount, and is affectionately known as “the Big Kahuna.” This equipment was provided by Academy curator of Herpetology Bob Drewes. You can read about his ongoing work teaching about and studying the incredible biodiversity of Sao Tome and Principe on his blog.

It has been fun and a great learning experience to work on this project. Although my internship is coming to an end in a couple of weeks, I am certain you will be hearing more about the progress of this exciting project from the staff and other interns over the next couple of years.

Josh Roselle


Filed under: Digitization,Fieldnotes,Interns,Specimens — ddickman @ 11:02 am

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