Abstract: Over the past three centuries, people have collected objects and specimens and placed them in natural history museums throughout the world. Taken as a whole, this global collection is the physical basis for our understanding of the natural world and our place in it, an unparalleled source of information that is directly relevant to issues as diverse as wildlife conservation, climate change, pandemic preparedness, food security, invasive species, rare minerals, and the bioeconomy (1). Strategic coordination and use of the global collection has the potential to focus future collecting and guide decisions that are relevant to the future of humanity and biodiversity. To begin to map the aggregate holdings of the global collection, we describe here a simple and fast method to assess the contents of any natural history museum, and report results based on our assessment of 73 of the world’s largest natural history museums and herbaria from 28 countries.
From the body of the article:
“Natural history museums have generally operated independently, and no interoperable data structure exists to provide open access to their collective holdings. Because most natural history museum data are not digitally discoverable, the networks of data aggregators have not been able to access these “dark data” …”