UW Geological Museum To Digitize Five-Thousand Fossils

Oct 19, 2017

Credit University of Wyoming Geological Museum

The University of Wyoming Geological Museum and Coe Library are teaming up to digitize more than 5,000 specimens from the museum’s rare fossil mammal collection. The project was made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Right now, less than 1 percent of the University of Wyoming’s Geological Museum’s fossils are on display to the public, and only about 100 people a year get to see the other 99 percent of the collection. Laura Vietti, Museum and Collections Manager, said a large portion of the specimens are tiny mammal teeth, which are scientifically interesting, but delicate and hard to display.

However, digitizing the images will make them widely accessible to researchers as well as the public. Vietti said the project is the result of a unique collaboration between the museum and Coe Library, which will be in charge of managing and distributing the large amount of data.

“We’re talking about making over 15,000 high resolution files, and of those 15,000, there’s probably going to be at least three derivatives, or three file types or resolutions associated with each image,” said Vietti. “So, you’re looking at over 45,000 files, which is more specimens than we have in entire fossil collection.”

A large portion of the specimens come from the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, or the period shortly before and after the dinosaur extinction.

“So, a really interesting, and unique time period that in itself is pretty cool, but it is also has a lot more relevance to today since it represents a major disruption in the ecosystems, perhaps what might be happening today, or in our future,” said Vietti.

The museum expects to release the first images a year from now, while the rest will be released over the following two years.