Inselect: an innovative tool for automating digitisation of natural history collections
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Presentation given by Laurence Livermore at the SPNHC symposium: Specimens Full Circle: Collection to Digitization to Data Use. 21 May 2015.
Entomological specimens make up a significant proportion of natural history collections: at the Natural History Museum, London over 30 million of the 80 million specimens are pinned insects. Currently the cost and time required to digitise these collections are relatively high. Whole drawer scanning has been a potential low-cost method for effective mass digitising pinned insects but has limited practical use without software to rapidly crop and annotate individual specimens.
As part of the European Commission-funded SYNTHESYS project (http://www.synthesys.info/) we have developed a cross-platform open-source application, Inselect, that automates selection of specimens using image processing algorithms. In addition Inselect supports streamlined manual specimen selection, specimen reviewing and metadata annotation.
We have used Inselect to segment and annotate images of the entire pinned Ephemeroptera collection at the Natural History Museum as part of a concerted curatorial, databasing and data publication project. Rapid capture and annotation of the dorsal habitus image of each specimen in the collection has facilitated efficient specimen databasing in the museumís collections management system, allowed remote examination of the collection and streamlined loan requests.
We discuss: the development and features of Inselect; the application of Inselect in digitising an entomological collection; and future applications of Inselect and automated imaging in natural history collections.