CHICAGO (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers have descended on Chicago’s Field Museum to read, log, digitize and preserve specimens collected by the institution.

The effort is called WeDigBio. Over the next few days, volunteers’ work is expected to help scientists get a better sense of the history of life on earth.

Museum officials say it is no small task.

Matt Von Konrat is the Field Museum’s head of botanical collections. He says there are nearly 40 million objects in its collection.

Von Konrat notes handwritten labels attached to decades-old specimens, some written in Latin, can hold the key to centuries’ worth of data scientists can use.

And by putting that written information into a searchable database, those specimens can be used to look at climatic events and changes in the past.

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