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Media releases and stories

DigiVol  Media release August 2012

Every week, over 70 volunteers wind their way along  rabbit warren like corridors to the doors of  the digitisation lab to spend a day taking images of the Australian Museum’s valuable collections of insects, molluscs and archival materials.

The digitisation project, known as ‘DigiVol’ received its initial funding from the Commonwealth funded Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). It  provided the Australian Museum with equipment, furniture and staffing  who induct and train volunteers to become skilled and confident digitisers of fragile specimens and archival materials.

Over the last 12 months, the digitisation lab has been hosting volunteers who come from different walks of life and are passionate about their digitisation role at the Museum.  To quote a typical statement expressed by a volunteer about her experience of the project:  ‘I like the diversity of people who come her  as there are many interesting life stories and interests shared. Sometimes, people think it is a bit strange to photograph dead insects.  It is fun and we are always laughing about something or other. I really enjoy going on the “behind the scenes” tours and talks on insects because you feel that your contribution is valued by getting additional information.’

Critical to the success of the project, are the Archival and Collection management staff who have helped volunteers to appreciate the wonder of the natural history world and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to handle valuable specimens with care.   With this support and ongoing training, , volunteer digitisers have taken over 60,000 images of specimens and archival materials which is valued by Museum Collection management as they do not have the staff to do this essential work.

The Australian Museum  is part of a world wide trend to provide on line digital  access to their collections for both the scientific and broader communities. Internet users can go on line to view the specimens and their labels here or overseas without having to organise a Museum loan or visit. As the specimens and archival materials are valuable and sometimes fragile, the digital records reduce further handling and help  to preserve the Museum’s heritage and natural history collections.

Recently, the Foundation of the Australian Museum provided  much needed financial support to this project which will keep the lab’s doors open for a further year.  The Foundation recognised that the digitisation project could not operate without the continuation of two part time volunteer coordinators who provide a fun learning environment for a diverse range of volunteers who provide  an invaluable  contribution  to the Museum and the broader community.

If you are interested in volunteering  on this project, please check the DigiVol section of the Australian Museum’s website or email Rhiannon Stephens at




Leonie Prater , Digitisation Project Officer
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