During his research career of over 30 years, Shigehara, one of the authors of MCPA2, has tried every means of collecting vertebrate bodies, from zoos to pet shops. After cleaning and maceration, animal skeletons, exceeding 7,000 specimens, have been housed and registered at different institutions in Sendai, Mibu, and Inuyama. The skeletal materials in Mibu, which include nearly 3,000 vertebrates, all accessible to anyone regardless of academic or non-academic affiliation, were compiled in a Vertebrate Skeletal Collection Catalogue (Dokkyo University School of Medicine, 1992). This catalog accelerated the use of the materials in skeletal biology. An image database that could aid skeletal research seemed impossible in 1990, when we launched a preliminary study of video imaging. Video camcorders, not digital cameras, were the more advanced image input tools with a recording function. In measuring video-captured images of crania, statistical errors were estimated and evaluated on a computer monitor (Takahashi et al., 1995).

From 1996 to 1998, basic studies in taking pictures, image capturing, and database creation were supported by a grant-in-aid for scientific research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The accomplishments of these studies were applied to all mammalian crania, which are housed at the Department of Anatomy, Dokkyo University School of Medicine (DUSM) in Mibu. In 1999, nearly 8000 captured images were uploaded to our website "Mammalian Crania Picture Archive" (http://1kai.dokkyomed.ac.jp/mammal/). Sample CDs compiled from the web images were distributed to the participants at our Image Database Symposium, held at the annual meeting of Anthropological Society of Nippon in Sapporo (Shigehara, 1999; Takahashi, 1999; Yamashita, 1999). In 2000, abridged CDs (Mammalian Cranial Picture Archive 2000), containing the images and text on our database, were released along with a revised vertebrate skeletal catalogue (Department of Anatomy, DUSM, 2000). The contents of our website and CDs were presented at another symposium of biological image databases in the National Science Museum (Shigehara et al., 2000).

During the two terms from 1997 to 1999 and from 2000 to 2002, we participated in a Sokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies) Project for Biological Image Database (http://taxa.soken.ac.jp/), presided over by Hirotami T. Imai (Japanese Ant Image Database, 2003). Since the second term in 2000, our goal has shifted from recording all mammalian crania in Mibu to increasing the number of species; therefore, new and rare skeletal materials were borrowed from institutions outside Mibu. During the second term, image capturing continued in the same manner. Finally, the last shot of the cranial images was taken in December 2003.

Hints from Related Projects

At the preliminary stages of creating the image database, we were inspired by the two outstanding projects. In November 1994, the Visible Human Project released complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/visible_human.html). The National Institute of Health project influenced our policy to share raw data.

The other project, which is not as well known, was the brainchild of Akira Gomi, a photographer. He released Yellows series CDs containing images of the female body in anterior, lateral and posterior views (Gomi, 1993, 1998), which greatly interested some physical anthropologists. Our image capturing guidelines have benefited from Gomi's impassive pictures.

In addition, the late Professor emeritus Moriharu Eto at DUSM, who was an advocate for our project, compiled 600 radiographs of children's growing hands into a voluminous book (Eto and Ashizawa, 1992), which spurred us to digitize photographs. Lastly, the Japanese Ant Image Database (http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp/E/index.html), presumably the best image database of ants in the world, was the impetus to create a user-oriented web design. During yearly workshops at Sokendai, collaborative research members generously offered technical suggestions and encouragement.

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