The School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol holds a collection of over 100,000 mineralogical, paleaontological and petrological specimens which were donated to the School over the past 100 years. Some iconic specimens are an original map by William Smith, a near complete and mounted skeleton of a sabre-toothed cat, fossilised bones of early dinosaurs and an array of minerals from now inaccessible mines in the UK. The collection also contains over 1500 type fossils and published specimens, a unique and valuable resource to researchers worldwide.
|Rhodochrosite from Argentina (BRSUG B2502)|
Over the past decade efforts have been made to record and document the collection to unlock its scientific and educational potential. The current digitisation project OnLine aims to improve remote access to the wealth of geological specimens in the collection. The project includes the design of a brand new website as well as the development of an extensive photo archive and a searchable online database.
|A taster of the future website of the Geology Collection University of Bristol, going live in autumn 2012.|
Claudia Hildebrandt, Collections Manager: "With the valuable help of students and volunteers we have now digitise over 60,000 specimen records for online publication. We collected details from registers, card catalogues, collectors’ field notebooks and the specimens themselves and merged all information into a comprehensive database. Additional funding from JISC (as part of the BRICOLAGE project) allowed us to employ a student who reorganised taxonomic, stratigraphic and geographic entries and ensured consistency across the whole database.”
“We have also started to add recently taken photographs of specimens to the database. This will offer users a look behind the scenes of our stores.”
|Volunteer Charlie Navarro editing photographs of Cretaceous chalk fossils.|
Once the website goes live in autumn 2012 the OnLine project will enter its second phase.
Claudia: “We aim to create links between specimens and relevant scientific publications and publish a tool that visualises the geographic distribution of all our UK specimens. We will also add a feedback function to the catalogue which will allow amateurs and specialists to comment on specimens and send enquiries.”
"And this is just the beginning. Parts of the collection need to be revisited to update taxonomic and stratigraphic information. We also plan to highlight the historic value of our collection. Many honorable and well know geologists donated their samples to the Geology Collection, from local fossil collectors to internationally known palaeontologist. We would like to dig deeper and reveal the people behind our collection and the extraordinary journeys some of our specimens have been on.”
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