New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) opened up back in 1900 and is among the largest herbariums in the world today. The facility has been working on an immense project, aiming to digitize its millions of specimens.
Today, NYBG has a total of some 7.3 million specimens. These have been brought in by collectors, scientists, researchers, hobbyists and all sorts of people. The facility itself has also furnished a majority of these specimens. Since 1990, NYBG has embarked on a highly ambitious project of digitizing this collection and offering it in the form of a database that can be browsed easily.
Naturally, back then NYBG had to expend significant funds and go to great pains to digitize the speciments. But over the years, things have changed. Today NYBG uses an advanced light box which was originally created to photograph jewelry. This box is able to take quick, clear images of the specimens and relay them directly to a computer where they are compiled into the database.
Together with the new digitizing techniques, the facility also makes use of optical character recognition software to read the labels off the samples and record them accordingly in the digital version. This has significantly sped up the process and NYBG digitized its 2 millionth specimen earlier this year.
You can check the awesome digital collection here, having being categorized neatly into different sections. Most of the project work has been funded by the National Science Foundation. The effort is very appreciable because today, thousands of researchers around the globe can benefit from this database with just a few clicks.