Digitising the Queensland Herbarium's specimen collections

860,000 specimen collections in 4 years

The Queensland Herbarium, the state’s oldest scientific institution, is set to go digital. They’re digitising over 860,000 specimen collections to make them more accessible, protect them against damage, and increase their value and use amongst the community.

The Herbarium’s collection is central to researching, identifying and sharing information on Queensland’s plants, fungi and algae, and the ecosystems they inhabit. Staff, volunteers and researchers from around the world use this world class repository and add thousands of new specimens to it each year.

Finding efficiencies

The Herbarium estimated that digitising such a large and varied specimen collection using current processes could take up to 60 years.

To find a faster way the team documented the process. They recorded who performed the task and how, the technologies used, and the results. The team looked for ways to improve the workflow. They reached out to other institutions who had tackled similar challenges.

The team proposed a faster, more efficient process. This included using 2 cameras instead of 1. They ran an extended trial to test whether it worked. They proved it was suitable for most specimens and could reduce the number of years it would take to complete the task from 60 to 4.

Next steps

The Herbarium plans to digitise its 860,000 specimen collections over the next 4 years. This will require 2 botanists, 8 digitisation officers and 1 coordinator. It will generate 600,000 digital images and use more than 120 terabytes of storage space.

By going digital, the Herbarium will open up its collection to a wider audience and preserve its specimen collections for future generations.