Hundreds of volunteers help Field Museum digitize archives, unlock history

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When you think of the Field Museum you may think of Sue or the new Maximo dinosaur, but there is a lot more happening behind the scenes.

When you think of the Field Museum you may think of Sue or the new Maximo dinosaur, but there is a lot more happening behind the scenes.

This week hundreds of volunteers from Chicago and around the world are helping to unlock history.

Up on the third floor, tucked away through a labyrinth of twists and turns something amazing is happening at the Field.

It's called WeDigBio. Volunteers are coming together over the next few days to read, log, digitize and preserve as many specimens as they can - some hundreds of years old - to help scientists get a better sense of the history of life on earth. It's no small task.

"We are approaching 40 million objects here at the Field Museum," said Matt Von Konrat, Head of Botanical Collections. "What we're doing is we're teasing apart all of the information that's in that label."

Handwritten labels attached to decades-old specimens, some written in Latin, can hold the key to centuries worth of data scientists can use.

"That has all sorts of real world implications for global warming, climate change," Von Konrat said.

And by putting that written info into a searchable database, those specimens can be used to look at climatic events and changes in the past.

From preserving decades-old fungus from a state away to mapping insect locations from around the world, this is your chance to interact with millions of specimens not on display at the Field Museum.

"It makes me feel a little bit more hopeful about our planet, our poor besieged planet, so I'm just glad I can be a tiny part of maybe finding an answer," said WeDigBio Volunteer Lisa Musgrave.

You can learn more about how to get involved at WeDigBio.org.
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