To me, this seems like just another level of curatorial time wasting that adds little or nothing to the value of the collection.  As soon as you add material to the drawer or rearrange units, the photo is out-of-date, and becomes a source of confusion.  The only way to avoid this is to  continuously update the photos every time something is moved or added.  If there is a specific reason to take pics of drawers, specimens, or whatever, then by all means do it, but I would imagine that most collection managers have plenty of other specimen-related tasks to manage besides dealing with a metacollection of pictures of a collection.

And why put BARCODES on drawers?  Then only somebody with a barcode reader can identify them.  How about numbers or labels that are legible to the people who will be moving and rehousing the drawers?  When we moved the Oregon State collection a while back, we put stickers on the drawers with cabinet number and drawer number.  Once they were moved, we took them off.


Andy Brower

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Mike Ferro [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 1:11 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: whole drawer digitization question

"Because every design must satisfy competing objectives, there necessarily has to be compromise among, if not the complete exclusion of, some of those objectives, in order to meet what are considered the more important of them." -Henry Petroski

Info in a database and high resolution photos of entire drawers are two different things that happen to overlap in information content.

The photos let you get a sense of what's going on in just a few seconds. I've even searched for specific taxa within drawers of un-IDed specimens using whole drawer photos online. You can't do that in a database.

On the other hand, the notion that all the data on a label can be captured for a majority of specimens in a drawer is wishful thinking.


On Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 1:04 PM, Neil Stanley Cobb <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
You should know soon after Sept. 4, 2015

The Beyond the Box Digitization Challenge has been designed to stimulate individuals or teams to solve a problem that is hindering scientific research and innovation - the inability to quickly and accurately digitize specimens and associated data in a standard tray of insects in a natural history museum.
The winning entry will receive up to $1 million for the development of a hardware and software system that automates digitization of pinned insect specimens, without damaging the specimens--one of the most challenging biocollections digitization tasks.
The competition deadline is September 4, 2015.

Beyond the Box Web site<>.

rom: Entomological Collections Network Listserve [mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of Mark O'Brien
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 10:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: whole drawer digitization question

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!



Mark F. O'Brien, Collection Manager

Insect Division, Museum of Zoology

The University of Michigan

1109 Geddes Avenue

Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079



See us on Facebook!