Zooniverse – 2B Museum Labels in Scribble

You can do real science online by helping museums create digital records for billions of specimens.

If you’ve ever been in the back rooms of a museum as I have been in The Smithsonian, you know that virtually every drawer and sample/exhibit, has a handwritten label and collector’s hand writing, especially faded ones in ink from early in the last century or even in the 1800’s, are nearly as illegible as those of your doctor. But today’s science relies heavily on computerized data so museums desperately need someone to translate scribble into computer text.

notes from nature
Notes From Nature

(When I visited a couple decades ago I was reporting on The Smithsonian adding bar codes to labels. A major challenge was that museums, especially The Smithsonian regularly send out collections to other researchers who often send them back reclassified, making barcoding and computer records vitally important but merely adding a bar code to samples is only the first step, you still need to translate the handwritten label to go with the computerized bar code record.)

There are an estimated two billion biological museum specimens around the world and untold numbers of them would be extremely valuable to climate and other researchers if only they could locate them for study.

Zooniverse, the people who harnessed internet users to classify important astronomical images, has begun a new project to help museums with this problem.


The site has thousands of labels and ledgers describing specimens and you can contribute to scientific research by helping to transcribe those online.

“The digitized data you are creating will help advance research related to species extinction, ecosystem changes, environmental health and even human health.”