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Introducing CitSciScribe!

May 28, 2016

CitSciScribe logoThe NC Museum of Natural Sciences is bringing you a new citizen science project that will give you a chance to take part in the collections work that we do at our Museum. As a citizen science curator for CitSciScribe, you will delve into our collections and help us accomplish a huge goal: transcribing our written collection data into a digital format so that the information locked away inside our collections will become available to everyone everywhere online.

Transcribing collections data is a hugely important task that many museums have recently undertaken. While the collections themselves are important and the millions of specimens housed at our Museum are used by a wide variety of researchers for many different purposes, the written data that is associated with the specimens (such as date/time/location of collection, who collected it, habitat data, etc) are just as important. These records have been maintained in written format for hundreds of years and that system has worked well.

Brimley ledger.  Photo by Chris Goforth.However, current advances in technology and the near ubiquity of the internet have made these paper records less desirable. While they contain invaluable information, researchers or collections curators have to spend a lot of time pulling the data associated with specimens out of log books, catalog cards, ledgers, and other written sources to do their research. This laborious and time-consuming process is highly inefficient. At the same time, the public has had very little access to collections, either the specimens or the associated data. This has at times led to misunderstandings about the purpose of scientific research collections and the importance of the information that they contain.

Digitizing written museum records solves both of these problems. Researchers who wish to make use of a collection can access the information associated with their focal specimens quickly and efficiently. The public is also given access to the data that has been locked away inside museum research collections and can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge such collections contain.

Fish in jars.  Photo by Gabriela HogueOur Museum has been working to digitize its collections and data for many of our specimens are currently available in online databases, easily accessible to both the public and scientists. However, we have recently acquired valuable new fish and reptile and amphibian collections from other museums and their data are still locked away inside written records.

This is where you come in! By participating in CitSciScribe, you will help our Museum transcribe the written records of these recent acquisitions into a digital format. As you progress, you will learn more about the species found in the Carolinas and the greater Southeast and more about how these specimens are collected and preserved. You’ll earn fun digital badges as you transcribe.  You will also help provide worldwide access to the data contained within our collections for the first time. Simply transforming a piece of written text into a digital format might not seem like anything special, but collectively we will move mountains of data from the hidden depths of our Museum into a publicly accessible space.

We hope you will join us in this new citizen science adventure!  We will officially launch CitSciScribe on Saturday, June 11 from 10am-4pm in the Musuem’s Visual World Investigate Lab on the third floor of the NRC.  Stop by to meet the project leaders, learn more about the project, and get started.  We’ll also have educational carts on other floors of the NRC to highlight some of the amazing reptile, amphibian, and fish species that call the Southeast home.  After the kickoff event, you’ll be able to access the project website (coming soon) and participate from anywhere.  Keep an eye on the blog – we’ll let you know when the CitSciScribe website is available and ready for you to join!

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