Citizen Science Uses Art to Unlock Scientific Knowledge

Since the release of Science Gossip a little less than a month ago, 3,600 volunteers have enthusiastically completed 160,000 classifications of natural history illustrations from the pages of 19th century science periodicals! As a result, the periodicals Recreative Science and Midland Naturalist are now fully classified and both the Magazine of Natural History and Journal of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Geology and Meteorology and the Intellectual Observer are nearly complete (approximately 80%).

Science Gossip Periodicals

Science Gossip Periodicals

Volunteers have identified illustrations from a wide variety of topics, from Barnacles transforming into Geese to Egyptian Village Life to a plant called Vegetable Sheep, all of which demonstrate the diversity of domains covered in these 19th century science periodicals.

Barnacles into Geese

Barnacles transforming into Geese. Magazine of Natural History. v. 5 (1832).http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2301212.

Some of the illustrations volunteers have discovered relate to other Zooniverse projects such as these gems:

Egyptian Village Life.

Egyptian Village Life. The Intellectual Observer. v. 7 (1865). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/39464460.

Furthermore, within the first week, one of the volunteers managed to uncover the background image we use for the Science Gossip website!

Talk has been very active with questions about the best way to classify. Based on regularly recurring questions from users we have begun an FAQ, and this list will grow over time. If you have a question you think should be added to the FAQ, please post here.

Vegetable Sheep.

Vegetable Sheep! The Intellectual Observer. v. 11 (1867). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/39544035.

We are in the process of uploading new content and are looking to reduce the number of blank and text only pages that volunteers have to weed through to get to pages with illustrations. Algorithms that can help automatically identify pages with text are being tested, although they are not 100% accurate. Stay tuned for progress and we look forward to seeing what other illustrative treasures our volunteers will unearth over the next month!

Trish Rose-Sandler
Data Analyst, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Missouri Botanical Garden

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