Ian McKetty, Kew Gardens CIO Kew Gardens is planning to implement an integrated collections management system to unify its disparate databases and make their data available to the world. Whilst most think of the sculpted gardens when they think of Kew, and as a plot of land which is home to over 30,000 trees that’s
Ian McKetty, Kew Gardens CIO
Kew Gardens is planning to implement an integrated collections management system to unify its disparate databases and make their data available to the world.
Whilst most think of the sculpted gardens when they think of Kew, and as a plot of land which is home to over 30,000 trees that’s unsurprising, most are unaware that it’s also a centre of scientific research, and home to the world’s most extensive botanic collections.
Ian McKetty, Kew Gardens CIO explained that Kew houses many different collections.
“We have an 8.5 million specimen herbarium,” McKetty began. “We also have an art collection, a book collection, and all sorts all sorts of others. So we’re all about collections and science,” he added.
Currently, these collections are often Victorian-era specimen libraries, but even the digital databases are held in disparate locations, with little to no integration.
“The Integrated Collections Management System will integrate all of that data to give us the unified landscape upon which we can create a unique repository for each species, or for a certain type of collection,” said McKetty.
He added that the project is very much in-line with Kew’s broader remit to allow the knowledge it stores and produces to be available to anyone, anywhere.
“We create and disseminate the knowledge we produce. The long-term benefit is that we can share this information with the world. So, the plan is we will have all of our collections in a state whereby we can interrogate the information, collate it, manipulate it and share it.
“It will then become an open resource that the world can actually begin to draw on. We have a unique botanic collection here because we have, for instance, a lot of the data and botanical specimens that Darwin brought back on the Beagle.
“But to access that currently you need to be here. So ultimately the plan is that we want people to be able to benefit from that wherever they may be.”
He explained that the first step is to digitise and integrate the ‘living collections’ database, which contains data on various types of trees and shrubs.
“That will deliver in about March next year, the rest will phase in over three to four years.”
All of this feeds in to Kew’s critical goal of helping to better understand and manage some of the changes affecting the planet.
“The world comes to us to help them better understand, plan for and manage the impact of climate change and food security. We lead the world in botanic science,” he added.