Working data from a museum, all yours

It is good news that the Smithsonian is making its archives of millions of images freely available — this is information ought to be in the public domain. Before you start drooling at the prospect of piles of free scientific art that you can use, the implementation is a bit rough. Sure, you can search for images of “spider” in the Smithsonian collection, but you’ll get back is a hodge-podge of imagery, most of which isn’t exactly polished, and the searches are difficult to refine. I mostly got photos of spider wasps, and black and white snapshots of broken, fixed specimens from the museum archives. General terms like “skull” give you a flood of miscellaneous imagery, some of which is neat or historically interesting; try to narrow it down to, for instance, “Neanderthal skull” and you get…nothing.It’s a work in progress, I guess.

It’s an excellent start, though. Just be warned that there isn’t much in the way of curation behind it and a lot of the images look like quick photos to go into a catalog of things that are buried deep in cabinets in the bowels of the museum.


  1. derferick says

    I don’t know if you know about this already but New Scientist of 8th Feb this year has an article, “Spider Smarts”. About “Arachnid intelligence is challenging our ideas about brains and consciousness”