Collection Management System Kotka

About Kotka

Kotka is a collection management system for Finnish natural history collections. It aims to

  • Make collection work more efficient and streamlined
  • Make collections and specimen data more accessible, and therefore increase their scientific and other use
  • Increase the quality of collections ans specimen data

Kotka includes browser-based tools to

  • Enter, edit and view data about
    • collections - metadata aout biological collections
    • specimens - diverse data about museum specimens
    • tags - used to tag specimens for different purposes
    • tissue samples - a very simple tool
    • living collection accessions and events - in construction (12/2015)
    • organizations - contact details for loan management
    • transactions - loans, donations and exchanges of museum specimens
  • Import specimen data from Excel
  • Validate data
  • Search specimens, create statistics and reports
  • Export data to Excel
  • Print different kind of labels
  • Help with loan management
  • Share data to FinBIF (and further to GBIF etc.)


  • Kotka stores primary data. The data recorded into Kotka is not updated anywhere else.
  • All users of Kotka see all the data, but can edit only their own department's data.
  • All data recorded to Kotka is stored permanently. Old versions of data can therefore be reverted to.
  • The data structure of Kotka is flexible and stresses rapid development and usefulness in different kind of situations.
    • The format is based on ABCD standard, but uses many proprietary fields. Mapping the fields to Darwin Core is relatively simple.
    • Format is extended as needed. Only few fields are mandatory.
    • Format is hieararchial, allowing multiple organisms, identifications and type specimen information per one specimen (for example, a herbarium sheet with multiple plants, each with multiple identifications)
    • Most data is denormalized (for example, any kind of spcies name can be used)
    • Allows recording both specimens and observations
  • Taxonomy management, user authentication and some validation services are outsourced to other FinBIF's services
  • According to FinBIF's data policy, the data recorded to Kotka are available as open data, with few exceptions (e.g. sensitive species)
  • All data identified by HTTP URI's (see examples below)
  • Accessible to all Finnish natural history museums
  • Based mostly on RESTful API's

Development principles

  • Development using agile methods. New features are published every two weeks.
  • Test-driven development and continuous integration to staging server (
  • Modern browser based user interface (
  • Flexible non-relational database with mostly denormalized data
  • Data querying, sharing, publishing through search server (Elastic) containing secondary copy of the data in a format optimized for querying
  • Scalable to national level
  • Utilization of pre-existing tools; FinBIF's information systems, ontologies, Excel tools, open source front- & back-end libraries etc.
  • Simplicity and flexibility
  • Code published as open source with MIT license


  • Backend with PHP and Zend Framework
  • Frontend with Bootstrap, jQuery and multiple other open source libraries
  • Primary data currently (12/2015) in an ontology database based on Oracle relational database. Migration to more efficient Oracle JSON document database is being planned.
  • Search functionality based on Elastic
  • Data published through FinBIF's data warehouse (Vertica)
  • Code on Bitbucket:

Examples of data

Kotka is being used at the following Finnish museums (12/2015):

  • Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, University of Helsinki
  • Zoological and Botanical Museum, University of Oulu
  • Zoological and Botanical Museum, University of Turku
  • Kuopio Natural History Museum
  • Natural History Section, Jyväskylä University Museum, Univserity of Jyväskylä
  • Kieppi, Kokkola Museum of Natural History
  • Natural Science Collections, Ostrobothnia museum
  • Natural History Collections, Lapland Regional Museum


Manual of Kotka


Kotka is being built at Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus

Product Owner: Anniina Kuusijärvi ,