Practice Article

Big Things Have Small Beginnings: Curating a Large Natural History Collection – Processes and Lessons Learned

  • Stacey Knight-Davis (Eastern Illinois University)
  • Todd Bruns (Eastern Illinois University)
  • Gordon C. Tucker (Eastern Illinois University)


INTRODUCTION Digitization of natural history collections is underway in earnest around the world and presented via platforms such as JSTOR Plants. Few natural history digital collections of specimens exist in academic institutional repositories, in spite of the fact that many universities have repositories and also hold extensive natural history collections. At Eastern Illinois University, a mid-sized public university, librarians worked with the Biological Sciences department to develop the means to digitize the 80,000 specimens of the Stover-Ebinger Herbarium collection. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT Setting up digitization of the herbarium collection required meeting with experts associated with important projects in the field, such as Symbiota, and with acquiring the correct digitization equipment. Data management techniques had to be developed to move metadata from an Access database to Symbiota and to the institutional repository platform. These were informative steps to be taken and will enable easier development of future natural history collections. NEXT STEPS Having procured the correct equipment and expert guidance, the library is ready for move forward with digitization of this large collection. The existing 16,000 records in the repository will have images added to them, databasing and imaging will proceed for the remaining 64,000 specimens, and we will be exploring the impact of these specimen records in the “Cited by” notation in Google Scholar, as well as adding specimen field notes to enhance the collection.

How to Cite:

Knight-Davis, S. & Bruns, T. & Tucker, G. C., (2015) “Big Things Have Small Beginnings: Curating a Large Natural History Collection – Processes and Lessons Learned”, Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 3(2), p.eP1240. doi:



Published on
22 Sep 2015
Peer Reviewed