In recent years, digitisation has taken on an increasingly important role at Luomus. The museum has become a leading developer of digitisation among European institutions holding natural history collections. Digitisation entails not just the conversion of collections into a digital format, but also the development of data systems as well as learning to use new digital work methods. The 13 million specimens held by Luomus are being digitised by a team working daily to make the specimen data openly available to everyone. More and more technical solutions are available to support digitisation, enabling the rapid mass digitisation of specimens.
Luomus has digitised one million insect specimens

To date, the Finnish Museum of Natural History has digitised over one million insect specimens. Digitisation provides a significant amount of data to support research, conservation and the preservation of biodiversity as part of land use planning. All specimens digitised at Luomus can be explored in the laji.fi service of the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility.

Plant line

Pressed vascular plant specimens on cardboard sheets have their details recorded in a database, and a label with a unique identifier is attached to each sheet. The sheets are then loaded onto a conveyor belt system for imaging by a digital camera. To conclude, the identifiers are used to connect images with database records. The plant line annually labels and creates images of 200,000 sheets of vascular plant specimens.

Insect line

Lepidoptera and other flat insect specimens, including labels and identifiers, are loaded onto a conveyor belt for imaging by an automated digital camera. Information on labels is then recorded and entered into a database together with the images. Each year, tens of thousands of specimens pass through the insect line.

Digitisation station

The conveyor belt systems are not suited to all kinds of digitisation. For example, algal, bryophyte and lichen and other fungal specimens are not mounted on sheets but stored in packages or envelopes and then extra steps on digitisation are needed. The specimens are first barcoded and label information of these specimens is converted into a digital format (or databased). They then undergo imaging at a workstation that enables the photography of each specimen with the same camera and lightning settings. The station is also used to create images of valuable type specimens to make them available to the global scholarly community.

Workstation digitisation

Not all specimens are photographed using the conveyor belt system or digitisation station. However, each specimen must be databased and assigned a unique identifier. Once species and collection information (i.e., when and where the specimen was collected) has been entered into a database, it is easy for researchers to access, for example, a list of all Hymenoptera in the Luomus collections collected in Helsinki in 1963. Searching through physical collections would be much more time-consuming. This type of ‘workstation digitisation’ is slower than the use of a conveyor belt system, but enables more detailed work, making it suitable for digitising type specimens too.


The most important specimens are photographed with a digital camera, and even extremely detailed tomographic images of specimens can be produced. Where necessary, a micro-CT scanner is available.


Digitised images Images are important, as they enable research from across the world without physical access to specimens in the Luomus facilities. Previously, researchers had to travel to Finland from abroad to study a specimen, or Luomus had to post the specimen to them. Now detailed close-ups often suffice for identifying species and examining their characteristics. This saves researchers’ time, avoids unnecessary travel and protects specimens by minimising physical handling.

On the Finnish Species Information Centre's Laji.fi website you can view digitised insect specimens. As an example cuckoo wasp Hedychrum nobile.