I hope that this email finds you in good health, for which we've all developed a new appreciation in the last few months. Massachusetts seems to be one step ahead of much of the rest of the country, in terms of COVID-19 cases and the response - our university is sending students home and making plans "social distancing" and remote work.
I'm hoping to start a conversation on preparedness - how are you preparing for the possibility of extended remote work? ...for extended periods without staff on site, with no one attending to the collection on a daily basis?
Here in the Entomology Collection at the MCZ, we are:
1) Learning how to use collaborative tools, such as Zoom and google docs to keep in touch remotely, and planning for a regular schedule for check-ins among staff.
2) Preparing projects that can be completed remotely: scanning old documentation, field notes, etc., taking photos of specimen labels, etc., that can be transcribed from anywhere; initiating data cleanup projects (and making sure we have the right database exports on hand) that probably needed to be done anyway; and vetting type statuses against publications. Different institutions have different policies on taking specimens home, so it's a good time to think of alternative projects that don't involve direct interaction with specimens and start preparing those photos, scans etc.
3) Of course, the whole hand sanitizer, hand washing rigmarole. We've posted signs reminding people to wash their hands.
4) Getting the collection ready for an extended period of non-attendance, should it come to that - ALL pinned specimens in cabinets, locking cabinets of historical material, updating and posting home/cell phone contact lists, unplugging unused electrical devices, closing blinds, doors, etc.
Thoughts? What are you doing right now?
Also, on a personal note, as things progress, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're a small community, tied together by a common love for insects and a deep interest in museum collections - we need to lean on each other for support in these trying times, and it's nice to connect with kindred spirits to keep us looking forward.
Stay well, everyone!
Crystal A. Maier, Ph.D.
Curatorial Associate, Entomology
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138 U.S.A.