EcoTarium Digitizes Its Natural History Collection | EcoTarium

EcoTarium Digitizes Its Natural History Collection

Release Date: 
Monday, July 24, 2017

WORCESTER, MASS. – The EcoTarium is excited to announce the launch of its new online natural history collections database, which can be found at www.ecotarium.org/collections. The creation of this online database is a culmination of a two-year project titled Increasing Inventorying Capacity at the EcoTarium and other Institutions with Small Natural History Collections: The Volunteer-Based Inventorying Protocol (VBI Protocol).

The data available within this database is thanks to the tireless work of EcoTarium staff and volunteers, as well as a $66,433 grant the EcoTarium received from the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) in October of 2015. The grant helped the EcoTarium upgrade its collections management IT and volunteer infrastructure. While the grant period ends in September of 2017, the online database and the Museum’s collections inventorying efforts will continue as the institution works to complete a full inventory of its collections holdings estimated at roughly 55,000 pieces, by the institution’s 200 year anniversary in 2025.

Most museums can only display a small portion of their full collections. The EcoTarium’s online natural history collections database allows researchers and amateur enthusiasts alike to explore delicate pieces stored behind the scenes not previously available for viewing. The online database now features over 4,000 searchable specimens from the EcoTarium’s collection including extinct and endangered specimens, and specimens over 100 years old!

This online database utilizes software called PastPerfect to display photos, dates of collection, and specimen information. This searchable, user-friendly database has three main entry points for research, making EcoTarium’s collections easily accessible for all. For those who have an idea of what they are looking for, the general Keyword Search or the Advanced Search allows users to search keywords inside a particular category. Both of these options allow users to search by common and scientific names. For those who are curious about the collection, the Random Images function of the database allows users to browse samples from the entire collection.

EcoTarium’s efforts to continue to digitize its natural history collections are part of larger national and international efforts to digitize the world’s biological heritage to aid in scientific discovery and better understand how the earth’s biological diversity is changing during the Anthropocene. For more information, visit www.idigbio.org to learn about the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) funded by the National Science Foundation. Through ADBC, data and images for millions of biological specimens are being made available in electronic format for the research community, government agencies, students, educators, and the general public. This ability to easily disseminate knowledge, contribute to larger scientific research efforts, and inspire curiosity is at the core of the EcoTarium’s mission.

Those interested in becoming part of this exciting project should contact the EcoTarium’s volunteer office at for more details.

About the EcoTarium
EcoTarium is New England's leading museum of science and nature, an indoor-outdoor experience dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature in visitors of all ages. Founded in 1825, it has been a leader in informal science and nature education for nearly 200 years, and today welcomes more than 165,000 visitors per year. Highlights of the 55-acre campus include a museum building with three floors of interactive exhibits, the Alden Digital Planetarium: A National Geographic Theater, daily Science Discovery programs, live animal habitats, nature trails through forest and meadow, seasonal narrow-gauge railroad Explorer Express Train, and its expansive interactive outdoor exhibit, Nature Explore®.

The EcoTarium, located at 222 Harrington Way in Worcester, Mass., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sundays 12 noon to 5:00 p.m. General admission is $18 for adults, $14 for children 2-18, $14 for seniors 65+ and students with ID, and children under 2 are free. Planetarium shows and Explorer Express Train require additional ticket. Parking is free. For more information, visit ecotarium.org.

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Photo Captions:

Examples of items in EcoTarium’s natural history collection include minerals, birds, and plants:

Mineral: Fluorite specimen from Cumberland England, Goddard Mineral Collection

Bird: Mounted ornithology specimen of a Heath Hen Tympanuchus cupido cupido Donated by David Milton in 1932, Heath Hen’s went extinct in 1932

Plant: Hebarium specimen of Meadow Geranium, Geranium pretense collected on May 21, 1932, in Tatnuck, Worcester, MA

Contact: 

Charlene L. Leith-Bushey
Manager of Marketing and Communications
Office: 508.929.2738