Blog

DigiVol: Why volunteer?

By: Leonie Prater, Category: Science, Date: 09 May 2012

Julie, Louise and Ron are experienced volunteers who provide insight into why they devote their valuable time, knowledge and skills volunteering weekly on this project. Currently, we have over 60 committed volunteers who digitise valuable entomology specimens/labels, malacology specimens/ labels and a range of archival material, including the early Museum registers, fascinating field diaries and beautiful illustrations. The specimen labels and some of the handwritten archival material are transcibed into text by volunteer digitisers as well as the virtual volunteers on the online volunteer portal.

Julie has been a volunteer for 6 months. She gained a Degree in International Affairs and Germanic Studies in Boulder, Colorado and moved to Sydney 9 years ago with a job relocation from New York.  When she isn’t clicking her camera taking great photos on her walks and exploring Sydney, she likes to take it easy reading.


Why do you volunteer on this project?
“I had been a regular visitor to the museum and when I read about the project in the Explorer magazine, I thought that this would give me an opportunity to take photographs of insects and other interesting things as I am naturally curious about nature and anything scientific.”


What do you find enjoyable and challenging about this project?
“I am fascinated to see insects up close ….before volunteering on this project, I would usually swat a fly away and wouldn’t look at it again.....now, I see them up close and I love to see the different colours and features which are not often clear to the naked eye. Usually, only entomologists would have this knowledge!”


“There is the opportunity to work with malacology specimens and archival material as well as going on line to transcribe the specimen labels on the volunteer portal. I find the volunteer portal very interesting because I can relate to them having photographed the specimens and labels.”


“I enjoy the group of volunteers as they are an interesting mix of people with diverse careers and life experiences. We go on “behind the scenes” tours and learn interesting facts about insects from talks.”


“Getting a nice image can be challenging. Currently, it is trial and error to get a good image due to the reflection on the vials containing the shells and to image multiple labels.” 


Louise is an experienced volunteer digitiser as she has been volunteering on a weekly basis in the lab since November, 2010. Louise’s Science degree with a major in Zoology and a post graduate diploma in Library Science led to her working as a librarian in scientific special libraries in a range of government and non-government organisations. Louise is an avid reader and  enthusiastic” birder” who rarely leaves home without her binoculars and bird books when on her bush walks, whether here or overseas.


Why do you volunteer on this project?
“I have been a member of the museum for a very long time and when I received an email on the trial digitisation project, it sounded like something I would really enjoy. It drawers on my background and interest in both science and information management and allows me to be a part of the process in making valuable scientific information available and accessible to many people”.


What do you find enjoyable and challenging about volunteering on the project?
“When we have been transcribing and validating the Scott sister diaries and digitising MSR Sharland’s notebooks, we get a glimpse into their world and how science was carried out in those days. In the case of the Scott sisters,  I feel that in order to transcribe their work, you need to read widely so I have been reading about  old alphabets, vegetation of Ash Island, water colour pigments and insect body parts to help me recognise the words written in handwriting over 170 years old.  I really appreciate their beautiful artwork of butterflies and moths. As well, I have read up on MSR Sharland’s life and a couple of his books which gave me a broader understanding of his life”


“A key challenge is reading items of that age which are not in perfect condition as some pages have very faint writing; ink may have bled creating blurred text; use of old abbreviations; deciphering some hard to read handwriting and; meandering text over the page”.


Ron  is not only an experienced volunteer digitiser who provides training support to new volunteers but he has been an expedition leader in tree hoppers on the online volunteer portal project. Before travelling to Sydney with his family, Ron was born in Egypt of English and Italian parentage and spent his earlier years in both the UK and Philippines.  He had a career working in Sales and Marketing in the transport industry and over the years, completed a multitude of courses .  When he is not hamming it up, he likes gardening, photography, Egyptology, travel and art.


Why do you volunteer?
“I had retired and tried to keep myself occupied by starting a small gardening landscape business  but  I felt that  I needed to do more with my time. As a member of the Museum, I responded to a request for volunteers for this project as it seemed to meet both my interests in insects and photography and it gave me an opportunity to use my knowledge and to do something worthwhile”


What do you find enjoyable and challenging about this project?
“There is great camaraderie in the group. Seeing the age and variety of specimens is interesting as well as finding a correlation between the collection and historical events.  Since being one of the  initial volunteers on this project, I have found that my knowledge in specimen handling and data entry has been helpful in providing hands on training and support to new volunteers which I really enjoy.”


“I found handling the cicadas very challenging due to their age, condition and fragility….had plenty of practice as we digitised over 80 drawers consisting of 4,000 cicadas.”
 

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