Field Museum allowing volunteers to transcribe, digitize notes on specimens

If you ever wanted to be a scientist, the Field Museum in Chicago has a unique opportunity, and you don't need a Ph.D. or experience.

Through the weekend, volunteers will be helping to add information from the museum's massive collection to a computer database.

On Thursday, a trio of Roosevelt University students uploaded an image of a plant specimen and its label as they worked in part of the Field Museum usually off limits.

"I think like we all walked in here, and we're just completely in awe," said Karime Sepulveda, a junior from Roosevelt University.

The awe might turn to "oh, no" when you see just how much work there is to do. 

There are boxes and piles and cabinets full of specimens.

Dr. Matt von Konrat leads a team of what he calls "community scientists." 

They're digitizing and transcribing field notes and labels, some handwritten and really old, dating back to the 1700's.

They're adding the information to a database, opening up the Field collection to people worldwide.

"If we can unlock all of these cabinets, and all of this information and put it onto an online database, we can then begin to study changes over time, " said Dr. von Konrat.


He said that is key to the study of big world problems like climate change.  

So, who's qualified to be a community scientist? 

A team from Roosevelt University was working at the museum Thursday. 

People can also join on Zoom from as far away as Indonesia and high school students will help out too, with the real scientists guiding the work.

There are more than 40 million specimens at the Field Museum and less than one percent is on display to the public.

"So you can imagine we need all the help we can get to unlock all this vital information," said Dr. von Konrat.

There's no paycheck, but one big perk is a peak at the Field's backstage area.

"It felt like we were special access for sure," said Sepulveda.

Community scientists will work through the weekend trying to make a dent in this massive job. 

You can join in by going to