Specimens are the raw material on which the science of natural history is based, and this is especially so in palaeontology where the only direct...
Specimens are the raw material on which the science of natural history is based, and this is especially so in palaeontology where the only direct evidence of the historical diversity of life is fossilised remains of organisms' bodies and their activities. The British Geological Survey's palaeontological collections house an estimated three million specimens, representing most phyla with a fossil record, and all geological periods from Neoproterozoic (< 1000 Ma BP) to Recent. As well as hosting many specimens from around the world, the BGS collections comprise the most comprehensive resource relating to the palaeobiology and palaeoecology of Great Britain and its continental shelf found anywhere.
The increasing affordability of 3-D scanning technology now makes it possible to provide, in a reasonable timeframe, accurate high resolution 3-dimensional representations of specimens that can be viewed and downloaded over the web. This reduces the need for posting rare, often fragile specimens around the world for scientific research, and for environmentally-damaging travel to visit distant collections. As well as revolutionising the opportunity for scientists to study specimens, it also hugely enhances the educational and outreach potential of collections, because fossils can be made accessible to the public in a way not previously possible.