Matthew Bertone, North Carolina State University.
Andrew Deans, North Carolina State University.
Insect specimens preserved in publicly accessible, permanent collections are integral data resources for researchers and a valuable tool for engaging the public about biology. Natural history museum policies intended to protect specimens from damage, however, usually prevent people from accessing these insects in meaningful ways. We propose using the GigaPan systemóas part of a larger collection digitization effortóto enable virtual exploration of our specimen holdings through high-quality images of all of our insect drawers (~2,700 in total). We envision at least two outcomes from this process: a) researchers worldwide will be able to remotely identify insect specimens and/or read their associated data labels, and b) non-entomologists will gain a new resource with which to learn about insect diversity, biology, and structure, as well as museum science more generally. Capturing the dialog from these two processes, as annotations, snapshots, emails, and other correspondence, will lead to iterative improvement of our collection, more efficient loan requests, more informed specimen donations, and highly effective outreach experiences.