Dear fellow entomologists:
As some of you know, the UMMZ is going to be moving all of its collections to a new facility off-campus in the spring of 2016. All of our drawers have a barcode on the front to facilitate drawer inventory and mapping to placement in the new collection space (which will be two-stacked stacked 6 ft cabinets of 50 drawers each). A faculty member has been keen on having us digitize the drawers as part of the move. As I see it, any photographs of the drawers would be pretty much for inventory purposes and collection management, not for extraction of data. That would be approximately 9000 insect drawers.
It has been suggested that we could use this opportunity to extract data from the specimens, and my BS filter kicks in. I am familiar with some of the technological attempts at doing such a process, but the reality (or at least my version of it) is that it's a dog and pony show. No matter what, data capture is going to depend on a bunch of dedicated workers to examine the specimens, labels, and transfer the data, in addition to adding a matrix code to the pinned specimens. I estimate that it costs us about 20 cents/specimen to do the cataloging via human.
I see where images of drawers could be very helpful in getting people to see our material, and a relatively-low cost way to get certain specimens that are unidentified into the view of interested workers, but those images are not going to be able to convey all of the information.
I am not trying stir the pot, but how do you see such efforts? Are they worthwhile for your research needs? After all, the idea of accumulating and managing terabytes of images is more work than managing the actual collection.
I hope that you are all having a good summer!