Network Activity F - implementation of novel physical analytical methods in collections

Aims and objectives

NA F aimed to explore non-destructive and/or non-invasive physical analytical techniques that can be applied to the study of specimens housed in natural history collections.

NA F explored the following,

  • CT exploration
  • MR exploration
  • ESEM
  • The potential of a digital database of virtual specimens

Progress report

All work has been completed

  • CT exploration:
    Protocols for use of computer tomography have been produced from the results of scanning & storing images of human skulls and surveying existing literature. A review of software for handling virtual data has been produced in draft form and Geometric Morphometric tools were evaluated and recommendations for the application of the technique to Virtual Specimens in Natural History Collections produced.
  • ESEM:
    Commercial software was evaluated, volume rendering of test specimen carried out and the results were evaluated. This informed decisions on parameters, and a volume rendering routine was set up for successive specimens.
  • A list of chemical and mechanical treatments for specimen preparation has been compiled from information gathered by questionnaire, and progress has been made on the effects of different specimen treatments on SEM analysis results; showing which treatments are detrimental to SEM examination and also how patterns seen in SEM can be used to determine what treatments have been used on a specimen in the past. A complete report with recommendations for osteological preparatations and curation methods is in progress was produced
  • MR
    : MRI techniques have been used on freshwater Bivalves and essays on Magnetic Resonance of preserved specimens in water and alcohol carried out. A draft protocol of the application of magnetic Resonance in collections has been completed. A software review has been produced.

Outcomes and deliverables

The following reports were generated. CD copies can be obtained by emailing


There are no further NA F events planned

Where next

This work is all complete.