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<p>The Chicago Academy of Sciences is a smaller, regional natural history museum founded in 1857 with collections that date from the 1830s to the present. The collections are focused on the Midwest / Western Great Lakes region, particularly Illinois, and are interdisciplinary in nature. </p> <p>One of our institutional priorities with the collections is to provide broad accessibility to the specimens and their data. While this is an important endeavor, it can be challenging with a small staff. Following collection inventories, specimen data is migrated into Arctos, a digital collections management system that also provides online accessibility. Specimen data is made available to an even wider audience through biodiversity data aggregators. </p> <p>The Academy’s collections provide a snapshot of the natural heritage before widespread urbanization and habitat change in the Midwest during the 20th century. Through a NSF Partner to an Existing Network grant, malacology and entomology specimen data have been migrated online and are being further enhanced with georefencing, specimen photography, and connection to historical documents. Photographs taken during an ecological survey in northern Illinois during the early 1900s were discovered while digitizing glass plate negatives. These were traced to a publication about the survey that provided more detailed information for image metadata as well as for specimens collected during the survey.</p> <p>Collections that have not yet been made available online still inform research projects. Botany specimen data, for instance, has not yet accessible online through Arctos or data aggregator. Numerous specimens were incorporated into a recent publication on local plants, “Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis”, by Gerould Wilhelm. Assessing the catalogued specimens from this collection and the current data available on Global Biodiversity Information Facility, when these data are made available online, the number of plants collected in Illinois prior to 1900 published through GBIF will increase by 19%, providing key baseline data for ecological research.</p>
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