Blog

Five years of DigiVol

By: Alice Gage, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 05 May 2016

The Australian Museum is thrilled to celebrate five years of our innovative volunteer digitisation program

DigiVol 5-year volunteers

DigiVol 5-year volunteers
Photographer: Leonie Prater © Australian Museum

Five years.

1720 volunteers.

350,000 objects and specimens digitised.

Coinciding with National Volunteer Week, the Australian Museum is celebrating the indelible contribution DigiVols have made on the digitisation of the collection. 

Tonight 'Cocktails under the whale' will be held for sponsors, colleagues, staff and volunteers, and in recognition of their work, AM Executive Director and CEO Kim Mc Kay will present Certificates of Appreciation Awards to DigiVol Lab and DigiVol Online volunteers that have been with us for three the five years.

We spoke to some of these DigiVols to hear what the citizen science program means to them.

Linda Mott, five years 

What is your area of expertise outside your volunteer work?
I work casually in a few jobs at different times of the year - Interior Design and various roles in the Museum (currently Database Coordinator).

What brought you to DigiVol in the first place?
I was looking for volunteering opportunities at museums. I came across DigiVol on the AM website and thought it sounded interesting and that I had the requisite set of skills.

Why do you continue to work for the project?
I enjoy what we do, and the people we do it with. We have a lot of fun, learn a lot and see things I would never have seen otherwise. There are lots of good perks as well – such as the behind the scenes tours!

Tell us about one favourite object or specimen that has stuck in your memory, and why you liked it.
Hard to choose just one! But a weevil that we imaged really sticks in my memory. I always thought of weevils as ugly little black things in the flour. But take a macro photo of them, and suddenly they are like little pieces of jewellery – as though someone had hand-beaded them in little balls of turquoise. My friends think I am strange when I say how beautiful weevils are!

In 50 years, how do you imagine people will be using the work you are completing now?
I imagine they will be able to do research from anywhere in the world, on species diversity, distribution and extinction, climate change and its impact on fauna, taxonomy. One important thing with what we are doing is enabling a much wider audience to have access to the collections through the internet, people who otherwise might not be able to travel here to access the wealth of information that is locked up in the collections.

Chantelle Sammut, five years

What is your area of expertise outside your volunteer work?
By training, I’m an archivist.

What brought you to DigiVol in the first place?
I loved the idea of getting ‘behind the magic curtain’ of the Museum. My dad was a geologist and I grew up with a love of all the nooks and crannies of the Museum.

Why do you continue to work for the project?
I’ve made some great friends, and I find the work a wonderful combination of intellectual stimulation and that kind of hands-on manual focus that takes you out of your own head. Leonie and all the staff make it a very easy and enjoyable environment to work in.

Tell us about one favourite object or specimen that has stuck in your memory, and why you liked it.
What I really love is when you start with a drawer of specimens that look completely uniform, a little bit boring or something that you’ve seen a million times before (maybe on your window sill), and by the end of the day you’ve noticed a hundred different things about each one.

In 50 years, how do you imagine people will be using the work you are completing now?
Hopefully across all sorts of disciplines, science for predictions and planning, art, education, who knows? Probably something involving jet packs.

Ron Lovatt, five years

What is your area of expertise outside your volunteer work?
I am basically retired but enjoy my hobbies which are photography, Bonsai and gardening which I also do as a part time job.

What brought you to DigiVol in the first place?
As an Australian Museum Member I received an email about the proposed project asking for expressions of interest and with my love of photography, especially macro, I thought it could be interesting while also helping the Museum.

Why do you continue to work for the project?
I enjoy the camaraderie that has developed across the teams and the exposure to the behind the scenes functions of the Museum. I enjoy being a part of developing an important access point for scientists and the general public to parts of the collections that are normally not accessible.

Tell us about one favourite object or specimen that has stuck in your memory, and why you liked it.
This is a difficult one to answer as I have worked with most of the collections processed to date! The Scott Sisters diaries were incredible but then so were the paper butterflies.

In 50 years, how do you imagine people will be using the work you are completing now?
As species become extinct or diversify future generations will be able to look back at what we have done, see how things have changed, and easily access data for them to learn about their environment. Through the cataloguing of the cultural collection and the transcribing of diaries they will be able to learn about the history of the First Australians and those of our Pacific neighbours.

Wendy Greenfield, five years

What is your area of expertise outside your volunteer work?
I am a science graduate who has worked at CSIRO and as a teacher at Sydney College of Advanced Education and Sydney University. 

What brought you to DigiVol in the first place?
I am an Australian Museum Member and answered a general invitation to be part of the DigiVol pilot program. I was interested in it because it gave me the opportunity to work in science again.

Why do you continue to work for the project?
I see many different specimens and I find that interesting. I work in the Friday group and find that there is a strong sense of camaraderie among the volunteers – particularly those who have been with the program for some years. I also think it is particularly worthwhile bringing the Museum’s collection to the world.

Tell us about one favourite object or specimen that has stuck in your memory, and why you liked it.
It's very difficult to choose one as a favourite! I have worked with insects: cicadas, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, cockroaches; in Malacology; with birds’ eggs; and with cultural items. They have all been interesting. I do have a least favourite – cockroaches!

In 50 years, how do you imagine people will be using the work you are completing now?
I imagine the work will become even more valuable in future years. Specimens that are fragile will have been preserved in the data base, and more researchers around the world will be accessing it for their own research.

Louise Ledwich, five years 

What is your area of expertise outside your volunteer work?
I am semi-retired. I am a librarian, a science graduate and a serious birder.

What brought you to DigiVol in the first place?
I have always been a Member and fan of the Museum. I thought the project sounded interesting and I had the time.

Why do you continue to work for the project?
There are always new projects, new skills to learn and new objects to marvel at. Also, I love the way our group works together.

Tell us about one favourite object or specimen that has stuck in your memory, and why you liked it.
I have two! On a behind-the-scenes tour in the birds collection I got to see and touch a paradise parrot, which is now extinct. A once-in-a-lifetime experience and a reminder of what was lost and how we have to protect what we have.

Alos, recently when transcribing Sharland Field Notes from the 1920s I came across a record of him sighting thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) in the wild.

In 50 years, how do you imagine people will be using the work you are completing now?
As they have always done, people will continue to use specimens and records for science, history, art and education; but our digitised records allow global access and protect the originals.