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July 11, 2013 Volume 34, No. 33

Insects in CAFNR museum will be coming to a browser near you

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DIGITAL BUGS Kristin B. Simpson categorizes butterflies recently donated to the Enns Entomology Museum. Simpson is the collection manager and helps oversee the lab assistants and museum events. Photo by Emily Kaiser


Project expected to take three to five years

Soon you’ll be able to study more than 7 million insect specimens from the Enns Entomology Museum from any place in the world with Internet connection.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) and 13 other Midwestern colleges and departments are digitizing their collections through a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections Thematic Collections Network. The grant is to help create a national resource of digital data documenting existing biological collections, said Kristin B. Simpson, collection manager at Enns Museum.

The grant allows 160 years of accrued collections to be integrated into one central searchable collection. Simpson said specimens are already being posted in a rudimentary fashion on the network site at

The project is expected to take three to five years, Simpson said. When completed, standardized and curated digital photos of specimens will be available to scientists, researchers, educators and the public, Simpson said. Photographs will use modern technology, including optical 3-D imaging and reconstruction.

Graduate and undergraduate students at the Enns Museum are photographing and labeling more than 3,400 drawers of pinned insect specimens, 272,720 vials and 60,000 microscope slides, Simpson said.

Simpson is working on the project with representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University, University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Carnegie Institute, Purdue University, Iowa State University and North Dakota State University.

The Enns collection began in 1874 and is the primary source of insect and arachnid specimens representing the Ozark Plateau. The museum is used by research and extension staff and faculty as a resource for identifications and confirmations.

The museum is located in 3-38 Agriculture Building on the MU campus. It is open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Group tours are available by appointment.

— Linda Geist