Hi Stacey,

We have ~22,000 drawers in our collection. Drawers are being moved from the main collection to our digitisation room for specimen-level-databasing & whole drawer imaging of the collection also occurring (with 10% of drawers finished – still a way to go). So, I too was looking for a way to keep track of drawers & where we were at.

Things Pete Oboyski mentioned ring true for us too…… barcodes (or database labels) upside down on the pin, not increasing the footprint, and we also digitise all the contents of a drawer at once with not worrying if a handful of units are not digitised within a drawer (like out on loan ), or as curation & identification occurs, more will get added later. As like Pete stated – "It is easy to skip the ones already digitized when we get to that drawer”. 

We initially looked at a machine readable system (ie. QR code on the outside of each drawer) but then fell back to a human readable & visual system as this worked best with volunteers & people working in the collection that didn’t have the database or a computer at the tip of their fingers.

An added benefit - as our system also acts as a location system, anyone looking at a drawer knows exactly where it goes back to into the collection and which of the 3 collection halls. I can send you the files of our tracking system. You might be able to retrofit it to your needs?

We also use a label on the outside of the drawer that tells us if –
1.) drawer is curated ready to be sent to the digitisation room (imaging at specimen level for DigiVol)  and
2.) drawer is finished being imaged at specimen level (ie. has come back from the Digitisaton room).
This gives me a quick visual of where we left off, what is ready to go to the digitisation room & what has come back from there. If there is no label yet on the drawer – that simply means it still needs curation before it can be sent to the digitasation room for processing.

Hope this helps.


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Subject: ECN-L Digest - 13 Dec 2016 - Special issue (#2016-162)

There is 1 message totaling 50802 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

  1. How to determine which drawers have been digitized?


Date:    Tue, 13 Dec 2016 11:06:10 -0800
From:    Peter T Oboyski <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: How to determine which drawers have been digitized?

Hi Stacey,

With ~10,000 drawers it will takes us many years to finish digitizing our collections. So like you, I was looking for a way to keep track of where we are. I cannot see the barcode labels on the specimens (especially under butterflies and other large critters). But also we put our barcodes upside-down as the bottom label for easy scanning. This creates an issue with the determination label as the last label, but our users hated having the barcode label as the top label - they could not see the collection data easily. And I cannot increase the footprint of each specimen by having the barcode stick out beyond the other labels.

I like the idea of a colored label in each unit tray, but I often do not have space. Also, usually we digitize all the contents of a drawer at one time. We do not worry if a handful of units are digitized within a drawer (eg. specimens that have gone out on loan). It is easy to skip the ones already digitized when we get to that drawer.

Instead, I have QR codes on every drawer and keep a database of when that drawer was put into service, databased, curated, infested (hopefully never!), frozen, etc. But that still does not help visually if you are not carrying the database around while walking through the collection. So I also put colored stickers on the outside of the drawer indicating the month and year they were databased. These labels are temporary (until that section is completed), but give me a quick visual of where we left off. It also tells me and my staff, "Do not put a specimen in this drawer that is not databased." Otherwise it may never get databased.

Yes, specimens and unit trays get moved around between drawers. But this system has worked well for us.


Peter T Oboyski, PhD
Collections Manager & Senior Museum Scientist Essig Museum of Entomology
1170 Valley Life Science Building
University of California, Berkeley

mailing address:
1101 VLSB, #4780
Berkeley, CA 94720

[log in to unmask]
510.643.0804 (work phone)
510.847.0360 (cell phone)

On Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 9:58 AM, Dikow, Torsten <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Stacey,
> for those Diptera I am responsible for at the USNM, we place a small 
> orange label inside a unit tray stating that the specimen-level data 
> records are in EMu. We therefore keep track of whether a unit tray 
> (specimens within a unit tray) have been databased and can add 
> specimens not yet databased in a second unit tray for that same species.
> Similarly, for primary type specimens in the Diptera assigned to me we 
> have added orange labels when the type record has been updated from a 
> legacy record and the specimen been photographed.
> In my view, both labels help us to quickly find those unit 
> trays/specimens that have not been digitized. Our unique specimen 
> identifiers are usually not visible from above so that a search for 
> non-databased specimens in a drawer without these labels will be very 
> difficult. I like the touch of color as it helps to visually assess a drawer’s content easily.
> Attached are some drawer/unit tray photos with these labels. Note that 
> the yellow labels seen in unit trays refer the successfully updated 
> species inventory entries - another digital record we had to keep record of.
> Best wishes, Torsten
> Hello all,
> To all those that are digitizing their collections, I was wondering 
> how you keep track, visually, of what has been digitized. For 
> instance, is there a labeling system that you place on the drawer to 
> visually show that the drawer has been digitized; e.g. a quilting pin 
> placed inside the drawer, a sticker color-coding system, a checklist 
> sticker, etc? Or do you not visually keep track of which drawers have been digitized?
> If you are willing to share your method and the pros and cons of your 
> method, that would be wonderful! Your help is much appreciated. Thank you!
> Sincerely,
> Stacey Huber
> . . . . .
> Torsten Dikow, Ph.D.
> Research Entomologist for Diptera
> w 202.633.1005 [log in to unmask]
> . . .
> . . . @TDikow #asiloidflies #USNMDiptera
> . . . SI Entomology staff page
> . . . access to research data at ORCiD
> 0003-4816-2909


End of ECN-L Digest - 13 Dec 2016 - Special issue (#2016-162)