This website,, has been replaced by This website will no longer be updated and will be retired after May 1, 2021.  Please visit and update your bookmarks for the latest content from the IWGSC.

The New York Times is compiling a guide to notable digitization efforts.  They even call for suggestions of others to add.

They also published a related article on the digitization efforts at the Berlin museum and the iDigBio program.

[23 Oct 2015]

The Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC) was tasked with compiling and making available agency policies related to the management of federal scientific collections. Through a joint effort between the USDA and Smithsonian Institution, the IWGSC Clearinghouse now provides federal agencies and the public an central location to find these policies and other information about federal scientific collections.

[16 Sep 2015]

The IWGSC has been following a series of funding challenges for state and private scientific collections in the USA, and here is the next one – The Illinois State Museum in Springfield, which has significant natural history collections, especially in anthropology, will be closed per a decision by the Governor at the end of September despite a recommendation by a bipartisan commission to keep it open.

[05 Sep 2015]

The IWGSC launched the Registry of US Federal Scientific Collections, a a community-curated, comprehensive database of information about object-based scientific collections that are owned and/or managed by US Federal government departments and agencies.

[01 Jun 2015]
This article is a reprint of an original article posted on the White House blog, 20 March 2014. The original post can be found here.


In a memorandum released 20 March 2014, OSTP Director John P. Holdren directed Federal agencies to develop policies that will improve the management of and access to scientific collections they own or support. Scientific collections are assemblies of physical objects such as drilling cores from the ocean floor and glaciers, seeds, space rocks, cells, mineral samples, fossils, and more. Federal agencies develop and maintain scientific collections as records of our past and investments in our future.

Scientific Collections 1

Collections manager David Furth shows some of the diversity in the insect collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution)

These collections are public assets. They play an important role in promoting public health and safety, homeland security, trade, and economic development, medical research, resource management, education, and environmental monitoring.

They are studied across diverse fields of research and are used and re-used to validate and extend past research results as new analytical techniques develop. For the American public, students, and teachers, they are also treasure troves of information ripe for exploration and learning.  

And there is no better time to highlight this important new policy than Sunshine Week – an annual celebration of transparency and public participation in government.

The memorandum fulfills the requirements of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 that called on OSTP to develop “policies for the management and use of Federal scientific collections to improve the quality, organization, access, including online access, and long-term preservation of such collections for the benefit of the scientific enterprise.”

Scientific Collections 2

Databasing butterfly specimens in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Karolyn Darrow, Smithsonian Institution)

The policies developed by Federal agencies in response to the new memo will also be consistent with requirements in the Executive Order on Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information and my previous memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research.

Agency policies will help make scientific collections and information about scientific collections more transparent and accessible. For example, photographs and 3D scans of objects in Federal scientific collections will be made freely available to the public.

Responsible stewardship of scientific collections was of particular importance to Dr. Holdren’s immediate predecessor as Director of OSTP, Dr. John Marburger III, who passed away in 2011. We believe he would be proud of this positive step toward that important goal.

Read the new policy memorandum here.

This blog post was written by Michael Stebbins is Assistant Director for Biotechnology at OSTP and Erica Lieberman is a Student Volunteer at OSTP.

[20 Mar 2015]

Nathan K. Lujan and Larry M. Page authored an Op-Ed in The New York Times on the importance of natural history collections and yet the seemingly common lack of support.

[27 Feb 2015]

The National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution have announced a new partnership to share responsibility for selected National Park Service natural history collections, making them more readily available to researchers through the Smithsonian.

[01 May 2012]